It is said that games nominated in the IGF competition immediately become ghosts, haunting the memories of journalists and the creaky attics of Twitter, but without any true corporeal form. This year's list is less spooky than most because many of the nominees are available right now and others are just around the corner. Enter 7 Grand Steps, the new game from Mousechief, of Dangerous High School Girls fame. The game received a nomination in the Nuovo category and, having spent a few December nights absorbed in it, I reckon it richly deserves its place. A demo is now available, so you can download that and then agree with me. It's a game about family, legends and traversing history. Video below.
I didn't immediately love 7 Grand Steps but I approached it with the stick of analysis in hand, poking and prodding, which is never the best way to begin a romance.
"What are these slot machine trappings and mechanical gamebox interfaces?" I demanded as it attempted to tell me a tale of family and fealty. There were characters, breeding, developing and learning, but I was more interested in where in my parlour of games this one should sit. Next to Dangerous High Schools In Trouble!, the Jazz era boardgame with the superbly sassy script? That seemed the obvious place but the comparisons were, eventually, damaging to 7 Grand Steps.
That's not because it isn't as well designed or intriguing as its predecessor, but the surface is the only real shared feature. Both are constructed so as to resemble games within the screen - one on a board, the other in a machine - but the innards are as different as chalky guts and cheesy entrails. While 7 Grand Steps does feature tokens and character building, the emphasis is on a dynamic, generational tale rather than the mystery-solving of High School Girls.
The mechanical interface is appropriate, the board and its pieces replaced with a clanking engine, the workings of which are driven by player input but obscured and, at first, obscure. Eventually, the ticker tape output begins to pile up and connections are made between tokens dropped into slots and the story unfolding through history. And when that happens, 7 Grand Steps is enticing and, befitting its status as a Nuovo nominee, almost entirely apart from the hundreds of games that have passed through my PC in the last twelve months.
I'm planning to spend some time with the latest build over the next couple of weeks. This is a very interesting and unusual object. The demo is available on PC and Mac. At the time of writing the PC version is a zipped folder at the moment rather than an executable installer, but I'm sure you can all handle that.