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The Black Forest:
Finding Friends


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Rating: 3.6/5 (158 votes)
| Comments (23) | Views (67)

AlexeiThe Black ForestHave you ever found yourself wandering, lost and alone in a dark maze? If you have, you should probably consider buying a cell-phone. But if you haven't and you want to, then you should play Finding Friends by Pixelate, the first entry in a series of games called The Black Forest.

The title is pretty apt. You start the game wandering around in the darkness, a little black square (with cute little white eyes) against a black background, in a maze with black walls. You only know where the walls are by bumping into them. Eventually, though, you find a friend: a little pink square that follows you along and paints the ground behind itself, letting you see where you've been. It's with the help of the friends that you'll be able to find your way to the exit of the maze, because they'll be painting your path so that you don't double back.

The game is effective because it manages to, in a couple of deft and simple strokes, give you a pretty powerful emotional experience. The early part of the game, where you're alone and pretty much navigating blindly, is frustrating and lonely. As soon as you touch your first friend, though, you add both color and music to your experience, and with each friend you touch, you get another gorgeous layer to the music and another helpful little buddy illuminating your path. You can find the end without finding all the friends, but by the time you're there, you'll feel so bad about leaving the little guys in the dark that you'll go off to save them anyway. As a bonus, while the last friend you touched follows you faithfully, the other friends roam around their areas at random, with the benefit that sometimes they illuminate paths you hadn't seen before. After all, isn't that what friends are for?

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23 Comments

LittleLight Author Profile Page December 9, 2009 5:03 PM

I agree with Alexei, the deceptively simple mechanics of this game work to provide you with a surprisingly powerful emotional experience. The layers of sound that build as you tag each Friend are just one of the elements that motivate you to be thorough with the game, even if you find the exit to the maze early on in the gameplay.
Also, I'm pleased to hear more and more talk of Emotional Satisfaction or Challenge as a driving force in casual games: it's fun to blow things up, of course, but it's evidence of the growing maturity of the gaming world in general that designers are increasingly exploring ways to deliver something else to the gamer beyond killing stuff.
Surprisingly satisfying, and something more, somehow, than a simple time-waster.

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I don't get the "pretty powerful emotional experience". Maybe I've seen dark mazes enough to be able to navigate them myself. Also, while I did track down each of the friends, I didn't feel motivated to explore the whole maze 'cause the friend-light decays.

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Does the path change? It seemed as though once the friend's path disappeared, so did the path I had taken to reach a certain point.

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I don't understand all the praise, was it a joke review? This was possibly the most boring game ever. I found all the friends and exited the maze within a couple minutes....yawn.

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Mhm, and like a pretty picture hanging in a gallery somewhere, not everyone will see or experience the same thing.

I enjoyed this one and would like to see more experimental games like this. Can't wait to see what else is in the Black Forest. :)

Nice find, Alexei.

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When I saw the "1-1", I expected there to be more than one level. :-(

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I don't get it. How am I supposed to "save" anyone if they refuse to follow me? And why does the maze flash occasionally?

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LittleLight Author Profile Page December 9, 2009 9:31 PM

I'm definitely not saying this is a profound and powerful emotional experience, but that's the beauty of it. simple but effective.

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I know what the message was supposed to be in this game, but it was a bit confusing. For the one hand, for each friend the player gathers the maze gets clearer, and I can see the message there. On the other hand, I expected the music to be something cheery, and instead, for every friend you reunite with, it gets... darker? Strange. I wonder what they'll come up with for the Black Forest 1-2...

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Chiktionary Author Profile Page December 10, 2009 3:24 AM

No emotionally powerful experience for me. And there was little incentive to explore the whole maze really.
But I did like the music.

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I enjoyed this game, although I think that calling it a powerful experience is perhaps hyperbole--at least for me. Definitely interested to see what they do next.

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Om nom nom December 10, 2009 9:29 AM

I wonder if the title is ironic. More than anything, playing this game made me feel like one of the ghosts in Pac-Man.

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zbeeblebrox Author Profile Page December 10, 2009 11:11 PM

I would've liked to seen a note that there's only one level. The first time I beat it, I didn't quite get all the friends, and when it asked me to start over, I thought I lost or something. But then when I got all of them on the next run through, it said the exact same thing, and I had to read the comments to realize that was the end of the game.

Also, one of the friends (I think its the fifth - the one that comes after the piano track in any case) adds high pitched staccato notes that don't fit very well with the rest of the song loop. Also wouldn't be so bad if there were other levels with different music tracks to combine.

It's a cool experiment though. It just needs to be expanded upon. All this is is potential, really.

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It was alright. Not a "powerful emotional experience" in any way, but it was alright. I barely noticed the change in music being a result of finding more "friends" (I noticed the change in music, but it seemed more like a function of time rather than the more I played the game - I didn't notice the connection). I just found them because I felt it was worth finding them all. The disappearing nature of the paths made it not worth exploring too much, though. Plus, the other "friends" just wander off on their own after you find a new one, so it's not really like you're rescuing them from anything. Meh.

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Spackobert Duck December 11, 2009 6:12 AM

I only played the game because I live in "the real Black Forest" in Southwest-Germany.
I don't get the emotional experience either - what is suppose to happen to me? Shall I fall on my knees and cry because of this red blinking dot-friends? You have to be very lonely to act like that. I don't get it. I love games which are different but this is just yaaawwnnnn...

[Edit: I guess one act of hyperbole deserves another. But seriously, I think your expectations might have been set a bit too high for this little game to satisfy. There is an emotional experience in there, but it's fairly clear from your comment that not everyone will be open to experiencing it. -Jay]

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@V2Blast: I don't think that it's really 'rescuing' you're doing as much as making friends. The way I view the game, you start out alone. The flashes represent the making of new friends. (You'll notice when you touch a friend you've already made there isn't a flash). And even when you aren't leading a friend around, once you've made the friend, the friend is there for you, lighting up your pathways.

Definitely would have liked to see more than one level, but oh well. I'll keep my eye on it at any rate.

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I did get a sort of an emotional but more of a psychological experience and find it an interesting game/experience. I think this very small game might be a little bit like a brain hack that only works on some people. Completing the game gave me a strange feeling of having something new to ponder but I'm not sure what exactly it is I need to consider. Maybe I have to play it again although I thought the replay value was 0? I think those who did not feel anything like that most likely didn't because they have already experienced or realized or thought about what it tried to say previously in life.

For those who wonder what a brain hack is one example of a simple brain hack is to start doing math in your head if you can't get a song out of your head, if you continue with the mental arithmetic the song will disappear because the math uses the same part of your brain as is used for "stuck" catchy music. This works on everybody as far as I know, try it the next time you have the problem. The math does not need to be advanced but likely needs to be repetitive, a multiplication table or recursively adding 2 to the result in a series should do just fine unless you're some kind of genius.

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Interesting discussion going on here. Very insightful to see people's different reactions to the game, thanks to everyone taking the time writing a comment about the game.

We released Episode 2 on Kongregate today. Like the first episode it's quite short and you'll probably play through it in a couple of minutes. Our goal with the series is to try out new ideas in the most compact form possible without following classic game design conventions on what a "real game" should contain.

I'm looking forward to any feedback you have.

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Hm. I don't understand Episode 4 -- should I have played it with the sound on? -- my decisions which path don't seem to do much anything.

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Ezra, try to find the other ghost in Episode 4. Note that every time you play the path will be different.

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Did find the other ghost. Think there was a flash or something upon first contact, but nothing much else happened.

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Oh, I guess there's a starry background when I'm near the other ghost? Is that all?

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mrf1shie Author Profile Page March 15, 2010 8:35 PM

I think episode 4 is meant to represent making decisions in life, once you find the other cube you can lose them again if you go down the wrong path, and you can't go back and choose a different path.

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