How to be surprised by a 10-year-old game

This is yesterday’s entry – I was travelling all yesterday evening and have been doing THINGS today. I’m not sorry. I AM NOT. Also this is about games, so jog on if you have no interest.

Doing that whole long-haul thing yesterday allowed me more time to explore the games I have littering this here Tiny Laptop. Between bouts of watching Penn & Teller’s Bullshit (more on that later, most likely), I had a bit of a muck about with a few games I have installed. Eventually, after dicking about with the likes of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape Torment I settled on one I’d never heard of, but had recommended to me a long time ago: Anachronox.

I put about an hour and a half into it, and I’m not about to go talking about the game itself as I really do feel like I’m a long way off even scratching the surface, but it does have quite a lot going for it. The one thing that really struck me – that really stuck with me – is something I didn’t even notice for half an hour.

Such is the thoroughly thought-out nature of this game – so complete is its world, so fleshed-out is its fiction – that the cursor (the mouse pointer you use to click things in the game, on Windows, on OSX etc) is actually a character. There is a narrative reason why there is a floating pointer device going about its business around the main character. The mouse pointer is introduced; it has a history and motivations of its own.

This is an aside – something that like I said, I didn’t even notice for a while. But at the same time this is one of the best things I have ever seen in a game. It’s witty, it’s clever, it’s funny and – probably most importantly of all – it makes sense. On one hand it’s the kind of thing I’d want to see more games adopt, but then on the other I do think the impact of this method of getting the player more immersed in a game would be neutered if everyone was doing it.

So even if I never go back to Anachronox again, at least I’ve bore witness to one of the great, forgotten things that those hidden gems out there are daring enough to do.

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