D-PADS AND DICE - Like life, game grows complex as you play

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We stumble into the new year, still slightly bleary from all those parties, broke from Christmas, but ready to take whatever's coming. To grow and become a better person, to be unafraid of the challenges ahead even if we know not what they are yet.

This is a good time to play "An Untitled Story."

The computer game starts with you playing an egg in nest. You can go left and right and you can jump. That's it, that's all. But moving around a bit, you find that there are places to go. You also discover that the game has no intention of explaining itself to you, and the world is a lot larger than you originally thought when you started out.

"An Untitled Story" is not linear in the usual sense. You can't go anywhere you want to because it's physically impossible. Maybe you can't jump up high enough, or you can't figure how you're supposed to deal with that monster, how to turn off that force field. There are a lot of things you'll encounter that you just don't know how to handle.

Very quickly you'll discover that this is usually because you need to find new abilities for your character. You'll earn higher jumps, the ability to double and even (crazy though it may now seem) triple jump.

As you get these new techniques, you'll also discover that it's not just getting them that is the issue; you'll also need to apply them.

Many games of this follow a sort of lock-and-key approach - you need to get an item or move to get somewhere, you get it, and you're done.

But what makes this game incredible, and somewhat wonderfully infuriating, is that you'll need to use every trick you learn in increasingly complicated ways.

While playing the game, I often went from, "How do I get through this? Maybe it's a dead end; no I just need another item" to "Hah, I got an item and it sort of helps, but I'm still stuck" to "SERIOUSLY, that's insane!"

And then I got through it.

This game can be murderous, and takes effort and concentration for the player to improve at, but it's uniquely rewarding in the way that only a fine-tuned challenge can be.

"An Untitled Story" was made by Matt Thorson. It runs on Windows personal computers, and can be downloaded free from the Web site www.mattmakesgames.com.

Walla Wallan Noah Hinz is a tabletop and electronic games aficionado. He's currently a graphic arts student the Evergreen State College, working on various art projects and game designs. Send him your questions and comments at noahhinz@gmail.com.

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