Sustainability is a hot issue these days, so in the interests of efficiency here’s a list of awesome games that write themselves as you play them.
If you haven’t played Mossmouth’s freeware randomized Indiana-Jones-em-up, you absolutely should. Broadly speaking a cross between vintage platformer Rick Dangerous and one of your granddad’s rambling yarns that change every time he tells them, Spelunky is a prince among procedural games purely because every game you play is golden. Play it, you’ll die. A lot. And every time, you’ll love it. It’s being re-developed as a commercial XBox Live indie title, but is still (and will remain) available free for Windows. Because Mossmouth still got love for the streets.
Tarn Adams’ sprawling epic Dwarf Fortress isn’t for the faint of heart. The vanilla version sports nethackesque ASCII-only graphics, though veterans hold that after a while you don’t see the code. It’s like the Matrix, with dwarves and the capacity to build infernal contraptions that drown invading armies with freshly pulped cats. It takes the form of a random-terrain basebuilding sim in the vague style of Dungeon Master, though the unbelievable depth and flexibility in it means you can basically make your dwarves do whatever sadistic savagery tickles your fancy. If it’s all a bit daunting, you can follow the sexiness of Captain Duck’s honeyed dutch tones in his tutorial series on getting started in the game. You’ll probably need it.
Why is Canabalt man running? What are the shadowy monstrosities looming in the distance? I’m a twenty-seven year old man with eighteen years of gaming behind me, why can I never get the fucker to go through a window? Why does adding a fourth question break the narrative flow? Another impossibly addictive free game that’s been catapulted into the commercial market, Canabalt was recently ported to the iPhone. Seems bound for success, given Canabalt’s headlong single buttonry is instantly addictive, lasts about thirty seconds before inevitable plummeting death, and can hold you captive for about the length of a moderate bus journey. Hit the button to make your running man jump, to hurtle through and over buildings in twitch-inducing accelerating parkour. Check out the free flash version at Canabalt central.
You’re a man. As you descend into the pit, surrounded and assaulted always by red-eyed fiends, your constantly dwindling chances of escape are displayed at the top of the screen in such cheery idioms as “Probability of seeing your family again” and “Parallel universes in which you still live”. When you hit zero, you die, you swear, you compulsively start again. A nice touch is the ability to start with Talent (moderate abilities but no advancement) and Potential (no starting perks but the potential to level up past the abilities of a Talented character). Though statistics show that if you select Talent you are a dogfucker. Go and fuck your dogs at the official thread at TIGForums.
Wow, this is a grandaddy of procedural games, with the respectable pedigree of all Hikware shrumps. Three minutes on the clock, infinite randomly-constructed bosses and the ability to piss fire like an demon with herpes. Die and lose time, kill a boss and claw a little back. That’s really all there is to it; it was released in 2003 and didn’t tax the hardware then, but its neon-tinted apocalypse looks like like it was built yesterday. If you’ve got the p300 and DirectX 7 it demands, you can pick it up at the official site.