In The Pit


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In the PitBefore I say anything about this next game I must point out that the requirements to play it are rather obscure compared to the usual fare reviewed here. The game is a download for Windows only AND it requires the use of an XBox 360 wired controller connected to the USB port of your computer. If you have access to the prerequisites then you're in for a rare treat.

In The Pit is a well-executed, unique and original game that is innovative in its approach to gameplay, and it was an entry in the recent "consume" game design contest presented by the Experimental Gameplay Project.

R. "Hunty" Gough of StudioHunty conjured the idea for an audio game after playing Sonic Invaders, a game that is also played and navigated entirely in audio. When the "consume" theme was announced for the contest, the idea took on the shape and form of a monster at the bottom of a very dark well that consumes its victims.

In The Pit you play the hungry monster that must track down its victims by using only audible and tactile clues. Tactile stimulation comes courtesy of the XBox 360 controller that allows varying degrees of force feedback vibration.

Movement is controlled with the left analog stick of the controller: up and down move you forward and back; left and right turn you in the respective direction. If you move too fast your (feet? paws? claws?) will make a splashing sound alerting your prey as to your whereabouts.

Gameplay consists of closing in on the target by listening to the breathing sounds each of the victims make as you move about the bottom of the well. Headphones are highly recommended to be able to discern the subtle changes in positioning of the audio you hear, which lead you to succeed with the consummation. The controller will begin to vibrate when in very close proximity of a victim. Wait until the vibration is strongest, then press the A button on the controller to take a bite.

Analysis: I love the concept of a game using audio only for gameplay since sound is a much neglected and often under-utilized component of games, especially in casual Web games. Hunty's voice acting is quite amusing and he really hams it up to the benefit of the game. The gameplay is fresh and exciting and I found myself getting an adrenaline rush from stalking the prey. I especially enjoyed the gradual difficulty increase from a single stationary target; then moving target; and finally to multiple moving targets. Very nicely done.

On the downside, it is indeed unfortunate that it must be a Windows-only executable, and the game may not be worth the price of a controller unless you find the experience of new and unusual gameplay concepts as rewarding as I do. There has to be a Flash extension to support the 360 gamepad out there somewhere. Gamepad support aside, I believe this type of game would be possible in Flash using audio alone by utilizing multiple channels and unique sounds to replace hitting walls and nearing a victim. Sound volume could be substituted for force-feedback strength.

Also, after playing through a couple of times I found myself trying to press the A button to skip over dialog. Hunty says dialog can be skipped with the Start button, but I would prefer it be the button my finger is already on. A minor nit-pick.

Overall, In The Pit is a short, three level excursion into the deep, dark depths of Hunty's warped yet brilliantly creative mind. He certainly has a talent for producing great stuff that is refreshing to experience. Keep up the great work, Hunty! Click.

15 Comments

Shame you have to have an XBox controller... I assume for the tactile stimulus?

I wonder how a similar effect could be created sans vibration.. maybe the game window vibrating?

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I can't play this game, but it does sound somewhat similar to a terrible old Saturn/PlayStation game called "Enemy Zero".

In that game, you must travel from room to room in a spaceship while an invisible alien stalks the corridors. At first it's just one alien which moves very slowly, but soon progresses to multiple aliens that move at a fair clip. You only have a ludicrously short-range weapon with a very small "magazine" (battery, actually) which you must "charge up" before use (but can't be carried around continually charged or it'll blow up eventually), and your only clue to the aliens' whereabouts is a pinging tone which represents to the closest alien.

The tone pings faster the closer they are, and changes in pitch depending on whether they are in front of you or behind. Once you're close, you can hear it breathing and snarling, but you must be almost on top of it to use the weapon. If you touch it... game over.

As I said though, that game is pretty awful. This one sounds a bit better. No pun intended.

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Although I'm all for having new and innovative games posted, I miss the days when quick, casual flash games availible for everyone was the JIG standard.

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Hooray! Thanks Jay!

I apologize for the bizarre control requirement, and promise more fun simple flash games to make up for it. :)X

I guess I'm just a console gamer at heart, and latched onto all of Microsoft's hyperbole about how the 360 wired controller will become the defacto standardized controller for all Windows games. I do loves me some standardization.

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yeah...
I was wondering about a vote on this site for which game we think is best/worst/not a game/a marshmallow....
your thoughts?

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oh and i cant play this one ether

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I have to agree with mike. I liked it more when some quick casual web games were posted. recently it seems like you have to download them all.
ah well I guess I'm just a conservative guy (brrrr)

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mojassty April 21, 2006 8:05 AM

"Although I'm all for having new and innovative games posted, I miss the days when quick, casual flash games availible for everyone was the JIG standard."

I agree. It seems like there have been an awful lot of download-only games posted lately. Some of them sound interesting, but I'd prefer not having to go through the extra trouble. And the fact that this one needs a special controller is just a shame.

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I thought about entering the "consume" contest. But I'm only 15 so I wouldn't have gotten anything. I'll probably try this eventually.

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UnknownGuy April 21, 2006 11:12 AM

That is one really cool game.

(Yes, I do own a 360 :p).

It took me 12 minutes to beat it, but it was quite interesting, much different than anything I've played before.

Awesome find!

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Thanks for the support, UnknownGuy! =D

My first time took me 6:57 to complete, without interrupting dialog. I didn't quite get the hang of the shortcut until after playing through a couple of times.

Hunty - I read your update about rewriting the game to use fmod instead of audiere. Can we also expect that you will be adding more levels and gameplay ideas to it or another game like it sometime soon? =)

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Unknownguy April 21, 2006 12:15 PM

This would actually be a really interesting multiplayer game, though over multiple computers of course. :p

Some kind of monsters vs other monsters , or monsters vs humans, all good.

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dannthemann Author Profile Page April 21, 2006 6:25 PM

I sadly don't have a Xbox 630 much less a controler.
But I would recommend downloading Sonic Invaders

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Dude! This totally ripped the idea that was in my head for an audio-only game! Still cool, though. All I need is a cord for my 360 controller and I'd be set.

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I'm going to have to agree, Jay. I really do enjoy the short, casual games without downloads and bizarre requirements. This sounds like a good find, but how many people can play this game? Answer: not all that many.

I really am not such a big fan of all the point-and-click and download-only games, with rare exception (Hapland, N, Samorost and Escape to Obion come to mind as exceptions). I know it's really hard to please everyone, but that's my two cents.

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