When I played David O’Reilly’s Everything, I doubted its title. Everything? I don’t think so. Experimentation was less about entertaining myself and more about trying to prove O’Reilly wrong. Can I be a camel? Yes. A tree? Yes. A...planet? Sure, why not. But soon, I wasn’t trying to prove him wrong, but finding out that my own definition of “everything” wasn’t big enough. I became a one-dimensional line, an atom, a galaxy—far beyond anything I had used to “test” the limits of the game.
Terry Cavanagh—the mind behind VVVVVV and Super Hexagon—has just released his latest game, Constellation. Like Everything, it quietly invites you to experiment, to reach inside the silliest part of your mind to test what’s possible.
At first, you are presented with a blank black screen, and with how empty your mind can be when asked to be creative. “Skull”, you type, tentatively—or “cat”, or “guitar”, or “horse”—and, like magic, it appears in the void, a chunky friend to keep you company. But you know there’s more.
“Skeletons”, I requested. “Skeletons. MORE skeletons.” Like Captain Picard, here I am, presented with the sum of whatever Cavanagh could find on the asset store (presumably), and all I can ask for is “tea,” “earl grey,” “hot.”
(For the record, that gave me a solitary teapot, floating in a thermal image of some Spanish villa.)
A tiny question mark in the corner evades your notice until you run out of things to try, and it suggests things you hadn’t thought of. “Woosh” gives you a strange hexagon tunnel; “life” gives you some dancing fruits.
And then you start trying to make jokes. “Terry”, I type in, mostly out of frustration at the creator. The text at the top tells me that I have activated the “hades” filter, and everything turns red. “Video game” gives me a score, and “constellation”—the game’s title—gives me a rather lovely view of the solar system.
I honestly couldn’t say what the exact point of these games are—is it art for the sake of the creator? Are they probing the limits of creativity, of randomness, of what people first think of when presented with a blank? Is Cavanagh collecting all our information in an attempt to understand how weird our minds are? Who knows.
What I do know is that Constellation, like Everything before it, gives you the tools to entertain yourself, and apparently I’m entertained by watching crates dance above a farm.