The idea that constraints promote creativity is a well known concept; the implication being that with defined boundaries you’ll make better use of the things that you have available to you. With modern game development being what it is today most of these limits are now self-imposed by saying limiting your time (ala game jams), resources or technology that you’ll make use of. For a lot of games this renews the focus on what’s important to the experience rather than adding in cruft for its own sake. The 10mg collection is an experiment in this idea, with 10 games that should each run you about 10 minutes start to end. That incredibly short play time doesn’t leave a lot of room for, well anything so the games really have to get their idea across quickly lest they just end up being a confused mess. In overall terms the 10mg collection is a mixed bag with some titles managing to create something worthwhile whilst others failing to make…well anything out of it.
What follows is my rapid fire impressions of each of the games. SPOILERS BELOW…probably…
🙂: A rapid fire exploration of different old school games that seemingly morph between each other. This unfortunately had some game breaking bugs in it where one of the cars I was controlling went off the screen and seemingly couldn’t find its way back to the track. It’s technically interesting but since it’s just a jumble of different game vignettes there’s not really much to get your teeth into. So an interesting title that’s ultimately forgettable due to its mishmash nature.
Always Down: A simple platformer which I’ve only recently figured out is probably a direct clone of Spelunky. It’s…fine I guess as the platforming seems to be done well enough and it doesn’t overcomplicate the puzzle mechanics to stretch out the (very limited) game time. The screen tilting more as you get lower is a fun touch although can be a bit disconcerting if you don’t consciously pick up on it (my inner ear would like a word). Overall a good enough experience, one that could probably do with revisting and expanding.
Cover Me In Leaves: Essentially just a visual novel and I question just how much influence you have over the story but it was definitely one of the more gripping titles in the collection. I’m starting to notice a bit of a pattern here in that the short play time seems to make things more forgettable than they otherwise would be. I think this is true of short form media in general, like can you tell me about a blog post from a week ago, any of them? I can certainly remember some the salient points in this one but most of the rest of it is lost. Regardless I do remember wanting to see more of the story told due to its intriguing premise.
HANDMADEDEATHLABYRINTH issue.0: A roguelike with many of the trappings of its more fully realised brethren. This is the one game in the collection that loudly touts that there’ll be more content drops from it which is…interesting although I’m not sure I’ll be back for more. The core game loop is done well, with each death giving you a direct bonus to get you through the next section, but I’m not a big fan of the combat as it felt pretty clunky. Still it was one of the few in this collection to realise a semi-coherent plot in the short play time, so there’s that.
Locked In: Didn’t get around to playing this one as it was a two player experience and I couldn’t be arsed to ask my actual wife to play it with me.
Sealed Estate: A well realised horror game that makes use of some of the well trodden tropes of the genre and translates them well into its 2D format. The story is interesting if a little overwrought. That being said they did a good job of including tension in the game where, on thinking back over it, I don’t think there really was anything from a purely gameplay perspective. Could they have done more? Possibly. Would it have made for a better game that could be consumed in 10 minutes? Unlikely.
SLASHER, interrupted: Probably my favourite in the collection, mostly because it gave me complete control over how the story was told and I chose the cute path every time which I don’t regret it at all. This is probably also the only one that has some form of replayability in it but eh, I got what I wanted from it on the first playthrough and don’t see a need to go back. Just good fun, would turn a horror story into a cutsie love story any day of the week.
SNAAAK: A very different take on the game that Nokia phones around the world made popular. They could do a slightly better job of introducing the new mechanics as it’s not always clear how they work on first blush. This is one of the main challenges with a short play time though: you don’t have a lot of time to explore beyond the core concept too much as you simply can’t belabour the point too much. Falls into much the same spot as the original snake did; good fun for a bit and quickly forgotten when you put it down.
Stroke: This is a game that’ll hit home for anyone who’s had someone in the hospital after an unknown incident or accident. I was very impressed with how they managed to capture all the weird, seemingly normal things that have to happen in this situation that just seem so completely outlandish when you’re right in the middle of it. The hollywood ending was a nice touch although for anyone who’s been in this situation we know that usually the ending isn’t exactly as happy as that.
You are such a Soft and Round Kitten: One of those games where it’s clear that the developer thought it’d be hilarious to include all sorts of annoying things “for the memes”. Like whenever you go through a door someone sings “Into another place” which is funny, once. After then you’ll be hearing it dozens of times every minute and that, combined with the rather grating music and other foibles that the game has makes for a rather unpleasant and boring experience. Feels like a repackaged game jam submission.
As an idea I’m very supportive of the collection, inspiring game developers to attempt something that they otherwise wouldn’t do if for no other reason than to be part of it. However I don’t feel that the collection truly delivers on its idea of presenting “stimulating, new, and creative gameplay” in the titles that it showcases. To be sure there’s a couple interesting stories, and a few novel takes on some well trodden ideas, but for the most part the games are simple recreations of things we’ve already seen dozens of times before. The 10 minute play time does play a heavy part in this though as drastically short play times like that do favour more simplistic, recognisable gaming tropes to make the most of the time they have. So I wouldn’t count the idea as a failure, indeed I’d like to see more collections like this to incentivise developers to explore ideas knowing that there’s at least some chance it’ll be worth their while in the end. Perhaps using some other limitations rather than 10 minutes of game time will lead to more success rather than failures.
Rating: a collective 7/10 overall, individual games vary wildly.
10mg Collection is available on PC right now for USD$10. Total play time was 86 minutes across 9 of the 10 titles with some percentage of the achievements unlocked.