"What is that puzzle game that you play in a browser and is white objects on black, almost ASCII art but not, and it's about pushing things and also maybe there are enemies that are static boxes that push things? And everything makes really satisfyingly crunchy sound effects and maybe it has levels but also an infinite sorta roguelike-y mode?"
From this description, do you know what the game is? Can you break this description down into chunks that you can Google for? I could not. I was out of my mind, asking everyone I knew. What game am I thinking of?
There is a good chance you know this pain. Something sits on the edge of your memory but you can't quite pull it into focus. I was experiencing the worst kind of this phenomenon, one in which I could remember every detail of the game except the part of it that would let me find it, play it, communicate it.
I was sure it was made by someone who had made other things I liked. I thought of the puzzle designers whose work I respected: Brough? Wasn't him. Jonathan Whiting? Not on his site. Draknek? Nope. I ask a friend, who suggests Droqen. Nil.
I am sure I first heard of it via a podcast. I search the podcast and can't find it. I am sure we have written about it on RPS. I search the archive and cannot find it.
I ask in the RPS chat room. "Dwarf Fortress?" says Adam, before something clicks in his brain. "Oh crap - I think I might actually know the one you mean." A breakthrough! But he can't remember its name. "GARGH," he says. I look out my window, past my garden to the fields and hills beyond, and contemplate rejecting modern things for life as a forest-dweller.
I am sure it was made by Jonathan Whiting. I check his website again, then search around to see if he's made games that aren't listed on his website. Nope. Maybe Marsh mentioned it in his feature about puzzle games? Nope.
This is impossible. I am infuriated. Its name alludes me completely. It's not even teetering on the tip of my tongue, even as I can picture the rest of the game so clearly. Dark background, hollow white squares, little plunger-shaped shovers on one side of them.
Maybe that picture could jog other people's memories? I open up MS Paint and draw this image:
But before I show it to those friends who are now similarly wracking their brains, I have a different idea and turn back to search engines. Doesn't Google allow you to search the internet using an image? Yes, it does, but the results offer nothing useful. All the visually similar images are black-and-white versions of brand logos.
I scroll through pages and pages of results before I noticed there's an option to describe the image you're searching with. It seems hopeless, but I type in "puzzle game".
And there it is. This image and this page. It doesn't even contain the particular obstacle I had drawn, but it's the game. It's called Ending and it's by Aaron Steed and Adam has written about it before and it was mentioned on the podcast and another friend responds to say, "Sounds like Ending?". GRAGH.
What I feel now isn't the satisfaction you normally get when at last able to firmly grip a previously slippery memory. Google had the eureka moment, not me, and I am still infuriated both at my brain and now at a puzzle game with a non-descriptive name like "Ending". What's new is that the fury is mixed with amazement at living in the future where I can draw things and the internet knows what I mean better than when I describe it in text. But I don't know what to do with this swirl of feelings.
"THAT'S A POST," says Alice.
Play Ending here. It's really good.