Sunday, December 10, 2023
Game On

There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension


This game claims not to be a game, but there's quite a lot of gaming in it anyway

There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension popped up in Steam on sale this week, so despite the fact I have 80 games in my Steam library, including several I haven't yet installed, I went for it. It's the game’s third anniversary on Steam.

There is No Game: Wrong Dimension bills itself as "A point and click comedy adventure. You can go ahead and put your controller back up on the shelf." It's entirely mouse driven. It's a deliberately chunky retro game with pixels rather than vectors.

It gets weird at the very beginning. You're asked to select the language you want to play the game in by selecting a flag, and the caption reads "If you can read this leave the program!" Then the title screen comes up with "Do not click to start."

Chapter 1 opens with a large metal plate with four screws on it. After knocking on the plate a few times, a grumpy voice tells you to hold on while he finds his speech. A large heavy-looking metal sign is lowered that reads "There Is No Game," as the game tells you that "Actually, there is no game." You should go ahead and quit and play something that's actually a game. Go outside, read a book, but "just between you and me, avoid asking for a refund, okay?"

A few clicks around the sign, and you'll eventually knock it down enough that the exclamation point falls down and separates into a bar and a dot, and now you're playing Breakout. The game is not impressed by this and drops a much heavier sign with the letters bolted on. You, the user, continue clicking on the sign, and eventually the game throws up its virtual hands and says fine, you want to play a game? We'll play Roshambo. "You know, it's the one with rock, paper, scissors." The solution to this puzzle is not at all what you would expect, and that's true of all the puzzles in this game. You're subverting the game to get the solution you want, even if you're using the mouse cursor to pick a lock. Or pausing the game to get an object out of the Pause menu. I even had to learn how to play Sudoku to solve one puzzle. Fortunately, there's a help system included. "Solve riddles that require you to think ‘outside the box’. Hint system included because you can't think 'outside the box'... " I ended up having to use the help button three times, and it was always for a solution I was overthinking.

This game is full of sly tongue-in-cheek references to games. All the games, really, but especially early pixel games, like Myst, Zelda, Breakout and even Pong. This game was created by someone who really loves and appreciates games. It's also a subtle critique of games of all kinds.

The finale involves a highly entertaining segment that involves altering the creator's temperature settings and making him awful coffee, and eventually causing his smart vacuum to chase him around the house. Puzzles at the very end include references to Pac-Man, Mr. Game and Watch, Mine Sweeper and Tetris.

Total hours of play time: 12.4 hours. This isn't a huge game and doesn't do well on replay because of the lack of alternate solutions to puzzles. It's highly enjoyable as something to play over a weekend. From Draw Me a Pixel, There Is No Game is available on SteamOS for PC and Macintosh, $12.99.