In The Pit
Before 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.