Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
by Stuart Madafiglio
[Every Tuesday, we… tues a free browser game that you can play in five minutes.]
Player accountability is a popular topic of exploration in several modern video games. Many a critic have examined and lauded the emotional and very human gravitas invoked in story-driven titles such as The Walking Dead, Spec Ops: The Line, and Hotline Miami. Discussing the player’s own involvement within the game’s machinations serves as existential incision, it’s an uncomfortable calculation of the player’s frame of mind.
no-one has to die. is a short, narrative-focused puzzle game that follows that line of inquiry , while simultaneously injecting your brain wrinkles with a heavy dose of pop sci-fi mindscrew. You are a courier finding yourself in the security control room of a million-dollar conglomerate that is currently on fire. Upon making contact with a few survivors, you are tasked to manipulate the disaster control system to save as many people as you can. Because of the constant feed of human interaction, your job gets harder as you learn more about the survivors. It becomes harder still when the disaster control system informs you of untenable situations, feeding you a ticker of candidates for sacrifice and survival rates. The game successively betrays its own title as you’re forced to choose between characters you’d rather not get too intimate with.
The gameplay aspect is simple, even easy. Despite the urgency of the setting, the game adopts a turn-based structure, leaving you to weigh and ponder your decisions. You can move the characters one square per turn, lock only a single door for an entire round, and flood the rooms. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go one turn without the fire and the water spreading, elements that can respectively burn and drown the characters. Who do you elect to live? The snappish employee who never loses her head? The pompous CEO who knows more than he lets on? Will you leave the murderer and arsonist to die?
While an interesting study of character-player interaction, the game’s impetus doesn’t solely lie on the reaction it invokes. At the end of your first playthrough, the game makes it clear that something larger is afoot. The game then jetties you back to the beginning, sadistically urging you to try again, to spare other characters in order to interlock swatches of a grander plan. And you should. It might be difficult to get saddled with a projected survivor’s guilt multiple times in the course of one night, but it’s worth it. In a game where no-one has to die, what’s there to lose?