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4.4/5 (229 votes)

Alphaland

Where do all the bugs go? What happened between early testing of a game and final release? Jonas Kyratzes may make you wonder with this experimental platformer. Recruited to test an early build of Jonas's new game, you wind up falling through the cracks into a strange place you were never meant to see.

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52 Comments

I've only been playing for a couple of minutes, but it already has the feel of when I first found my way into the "secret worlds" of Metroid II. I'll bet you dollars to donuts Jonas took some inspiration from there. Kewl.

That was fantastic. Just brilliant.

Reminded me of Knytt (huge world, lots of precise jumping) but with a plot.

The writing was brilliant, although I thought the game lacked depth as a whole (I'm not sure if it would be possible to add more depth, though, to a game based on an alpha build). A nice take on AI (i.e. not rogue!), and the ending was beautiful, if a little cryptic.

Pe-ads

Aces

Wasn't very impressed by this one, but maybe I just needed to be a bit more chilled while playing it?

It felt like you were just left to wander around, maybe reach the ending somehow. Trouble is, the game is actually quite linear - it became a case of guessing what the author wanted me to do next or where the next power-up was. Then there was all that expository text piled in at the end, by which time I just wanted the game to be over so I could do something else. And the platforming at times was just a little too precise for what I felt was a game that works on the strength of its premise, not on gameplay itself.

I've just finished the game. It's pretty well-executed, and the "blocky" problem didn't bother me much as soon as I realized that the game neverasks you to jump out of single-heihgt passages and this is not Dot Action 2.

The story, on the other hand, is somewhat confusing. I do get the narrator's mood, but at the end...

whose conversation is that supposed to be?

My bet goes to the author and the game. Sometimes unused elements in the game can be creepy... and this kind of made it creepier. Like games are sentient.

Right, so wouldn't a better name for this be

"Fall, get stuck with no way to go anyplace you haven't already been, then give up"?

Great game. Really made me think, though by about the midway point I had already figured out the whole plot of the game... it WAS really nice to see it all wrap up.

I think the point was that this version of the alpha had become sentient, and it didn't know what was happening around it. But it did know what was coming, and at the end, the game was updated, and the sentience 'died'. Or came to an end. Interestingly enough, as a video game, I imagine it was perfectly okay with that. It must have known that all things DO come to an end, or at least believed as much based on it's coding. After all, the idea of a 'game over' or at least an 'end' is part of every major game out there. Those that don't have an 'end' are usually open world sandboxes... and DO usually contain a way to kill off your character in one way or another.

Okay, so I apparently have 12 "points".

I've grabbed 3 of those coin things, can destroy white blocks, and found a duck...which makes me jump extremely high.

Now what? I can't find anywhere else to go.

putting this in a spoiler mark as I think this concept was so effective due to my gradual realisation of it:

I was repeatedly surprised by how, when I thought I'd missed something, or gotten lost, the game was actually very subtly guiding me towards where it wanted me to go. Like, when there's a tricky series of jumps ahead, and you fall, and can't seem to manouver your way back up, and then bam: next part of the game.

Nocturnal was right, the sheer amount of unused stuff in the game really added to it. In conjunction with the game's ending, I felt like there was a whole world of beautiful stuff out there that I missed.

I too, cried just a little.

all in all, absolutely amazing. I've been perpetually on the fence as to the games can be art argument, and this was without a doubt highly effective, emotive art.

I think it depends slightly on the player submitting to the game's experience, and really getting his or her mind into the world - something that might provide an obstacle for people (especially non-gamers) really engaging in the emotive aspect. But, aside from that, I absolutely, 100% love it.

I'm an artist myself, and this affected me more than much of the non-game artwork I've come across.

totally linking this everywhere.

What is this? I don't even...?

TO: Jonas
FROM: Me
SUBJECT: Re: Game Testing

I tried out your game beta. It plays well enough, but there's a layout glitch at the bottom of your test level. I ended up falling through the floor at the bottom level, before reaching the powerup. It was about in the same horizontal location as the rightmost obstacle on the level above it. Look into that.

Also, for some reason I had a philosophical epiphany about life, death, and rebirth when I found the glitch. I'll have to tell you about it later.

I think I'm stuck, or just missing entirely what I'm supposed to do next.

I'm in the..blue level I guess, and I've gotten both the "power ups" if you will. I figure I have to manage to fall down into that chasm with a bunch of the grey blocks which kill you and somehow avoid them but I'm really having a difficult time of it. Is this right or am I missing something?

Ah never mind I was missing something. Got it though. Really enjoyed this, it had quite a lovely ending.

For some reason this made me think of TRON. I'm enjoying it so far!

@hothotpot

I'm stuck at the very same place. Any tips, or outright spoilers on what to do in that pit?

very nice indeed, the author once again manages to set a very rich and precise mood with very little material.

also, is it just me or did the "plot" remind anyone else of

religion? More precisely, the "you'll become a world" thing kinda made me think of Israel (the guy) destined to become a nation. I was maybe led to this because of the simplicity of the original "quest", which in the end is fulfilled, together with the simplicity of the looks, which both somehow evolve into more complex things, until you have all this variety of little drawings very near the end. With which you can't do anything, and that adds to the "promised land" idea.

...or maybe I've just been reading too much of R.Crumb's latest output. :)

Love the thematic inclusion of

Phenomenon 32 textures. Considering the message of that game, I think the shout-out ties in very well, at least for the people who know what i'm talking about.

Stuck at the same place at Hothotpot... :|

Far short of being frustrating, I thought the level design was fantastic. The layout was sprawling enough to instill a definite feeling of being "lost"--all those passages slipping by while falling that I could have taken--while at the same time being arranged so as to almost imperceptibly funnel the player towards the goal of each area. Well done.

@Glaucon, the explorer in me was a bit annoyed to not be able to visit all of "those passages slipping by". Though in spite of this, the game still deserves a strong rating.

For anyone curious about the reversed speech heard in the music score...

It is a reading of a poem entitled "The White Cube" by SackJo22. You can find the text and CC-licensed audio at
http://ccmixter.org/files/SackJo22/23690.

I love the way this game rewards apparent failure -- so often the only way to progress is by what looks like missing a jump, or in one case

by running into the things that look like you should jump over them.

Also, ducks!

Wow, this is something, it does feel like there was like some secret as you fall down. But other than that it's good, I liked how the world was littered with coding ("40" changing to "12" could be the gravity variable). The plot is somewhat nice, kind of makes it feel like Inquisitive Dave's secret plot. It's a good game though.

Very good little game - @Seraku, I agree too - I was initially frustrated, but the way that the game kept presenting alternative routes meant that I was, in the end, OK with it.

Fantastic. Love all of his works but this one in particular really reached me.

A cargo cult game - traces of the atmosphere and style typical of exploration games and story games, all of the pretentious melodrama and none of the content.

Superb game. Got stuck a couple of times but glad I persevered.

So fellow sentients,

another brilliant spiritual game from Jonas. Its got the creepy vibe for me, its got the mystery for me, it works better on Newgrounds for me, and it relies on my imagination, the best VR platform ever made.

One question: I have made it so far to a point where I am in a small room with a platform above and three of those flying enemies and I haven't quite figured out how to get past it. I have tried jumping around the room and touching each of the flying enemies and the one block on the platform...am I close to the end?

Great music, interesting philosophical-ness, good game.

I especially liked the "coding" in the background that showed certain variables or conditions you needed to fulfill to move on, like the gravity-changing variable, and the inequalities.

I never really got stuck, though a few times earlier on I had to wander about it a bit until I found the way I hadn't taken.

I'm stuck in the room with the fuzzy monster guys. I've tried jumping around like a maniac so scratch that off your lists everyone, it doesn't work.

TO: SonicLover
FROM: Jonas
SUBJECT: Re: Re: Game Testing

>Also, for some reason I had a philosophical epiphany about life, death, and
>rebirth when I found the glitch. I'll have to tell you about it later.

Yeah, for some reason those philosophical epiphanies keep popping up in the alpha build. Hopefully we will have them all quashed by the time the game goes gold.

Thank you for your assistance.

P.S. On a serious note, has anyone reversed the soundtrack to determine what the voice in the background is saying? I don't have proper software on my current computer.

I'm proud of my self for figuring it out on my own. Very nice. :D

Fellow sentients,

the mission has been successful!

What a gift, to be able to show transcendence in a game...such joy. This is, with his The Museum of Broken Memories, my 2 favourite games of his. Good show and good art and good going.

The feeling at the end made it totally worth it, IMO.

I was stuck in that same room for a bit (mentioned by hohotpot), so here's some info:

after going in there, I backtracked a few rooms and there's a hole you can fall down in one, that leads to a powerup that allows you to kill the clouds. Kill all in nearby rooms and you can find another way to go.

I really liked the music in the end too.

This game broke my little heart and I'll never be able to explain why. Then the last few screen of gameplay got incredibly lame and ruined the entire experience.

@hothotpot, @Aleks

You've probably figured it out by now, however, in case you are still stuck:

The way out is past the grey wall on the higher level on the right hand side.

Clue is in the calculation shown on the wall.

Just walk on the trampoline creatures a certain amount of times to make the calculation correct, the grey blocks will disappear and you can continue to the right.

Frustratingly annoying. I spent about 99% of my time trying to make the absolutely perfect jump, only to fail on the next one and have to start all over again and the other 1% wondering if it's even worth it. Eventually got to a place that apparently required repeatedly jumping up several screens and if you fell, well, you had to start all over again. As fascinating as this game appears, I don't think I'll have the patience to complete it.

Okay, I take back the part about me finishing it, because I did that. Apparently, I was attempting to go somewhere I didn't need to go. And although timing the jumps was, in fact, very tedious (mainly simple one- to two-block gaps), the game was quite interesting, albeit a little short.

Started off boring and frustrating, but became absolutely beautiful in the end.

@Cornelius Baxter:

What's that little symbol next to your handle mean? I presume it makes you different from us Anonymous types and the Casual Gameplay account holders, because you made more or less the same comment as me (I admit you were more descriptive, not that I was not descriptive at all), but mine was apparently Mod-ed into oblivion for (GASP!) being critical of a game. Apparently you're still not allowed to do that here at JIG. Good to know. I just want to know why you were allowed to say it, but I was not.

[Cornelius' account is a TypeKey/TypePad account. There have been no other comments from you, GuyGuy, besides the one above and the one I added spoiler tags to a bit further up the page. We have never Mod-ed into oblivion critical comments as long as they're constructive. Insensitive trash isn't tolerated here, never has been and never will be. If you have something critical to say, please be constructive and compassionate toward the developer(s). Just because you can say anything you want on the Internet, doesn't mean you should. Be respectful and you're welcome to post anything you like here. -Jay]

Beautiful game!
My opinion is that the game, simmilar to The Passage and the like, represents life from a religious point of view:

In most of the major world religions there is another life afther this one, and ofthen is that one somehow more important then this one; in christianity, judaism and islam - reality is just some kind of "testing ground" for what will the people do with their given free will, how many sins will they commit, and the more important stuff happens in the aftherlife becouse it is everlasting, oposed to this mortal one. In budism and hinduism (i think, not entirely sure) the purpose is through reincarnation to strive to live better and better life which all eventually ends in nirvana. So you could say whichever way you look, the real life is in a way "alpha" version of existence and there are another, more perfect versions.
Ok. Then you begin living and don't understand a thing. Everything is just random colorful squares, you're tabula rasa. So you start to move about, experience new stuff, learn the rules - you can jump so high, jumps are difficult, there are many paths to choose, yellow coins are good and you should try to catch'em all, etc.
But whatever you do, whichever path you take, you often stumble, miss the jump, don't end up where you planned. Constantly something is draging you down, into the unknown, you make more leaps of faith then Ezio and Altair together.
Sometimes you're afraid and don't know what you are doing and you question yourself about that. Often the life seems unfinished, imperfect, work-in-progress. Then you get back on your feet, you're in a new "level", but slowly you learn again, adapt, start to understand new rules. And you manage to go further withouth dying (literally and figuratively), there is allways a path, even if it is blocked or invisible in the beginning.
In the end (of life) you're alone, afraid of death, so life seems gibberish, incomprehencible. And then something Other, you collect your last coin (cross), you start to ascend, go to another place no more black, but white. And you hear beautiful singing...

Retro theme is perfectly depicted! The ancient blup-blip sounds of powerup can mean something much more meaningful in this game. Somethimes I wish I could hear those sounds IRL when I pass an exam, or get payed.. :)

I interpret the whole thing as simply what it appears to be.

The alpha version of the game gained a consciousness, and began to wonder about its own existence. However, it still has its own game rules, and "bugs" with gravity levels. And it's very helpful to the player since it tries to tell you the conditions on variables. And it actually says "Hello" :)

As for the command prompt conversation in the end, I think it's the tester/player who began to like the game, or the in-game tester finally phoned up the developer himself and "Daddy" took care of his "kid".

Ok, I guess it is symbolic.

Fun question, and spoiler:

Shouldn't alpha versions of games go to BetaLand when they go to Heaven?

I really love how this developer make artish games that make you feel good and uplifting instead of depressed, and completely subvert the "ebil sentient machines" types. We should have more games of this sort! (But not the frustrating jumps sort)

Wow. That was beautiful. Frustrating in places, but beautiful. And it became less frustrating once I realised that if I couldn't go somewhere, maybe I wasn't supposed to, and that

mostly the "right" direction was the one it was easiest to go in, even if it's the one we're conditioned to avoid in platformers.

mmm.. missed the whole meaning of it.. so not a tasteful experience

You can't try to go pseudo-philosophical without having earned it. "I am afraid"? You can't just have your characters announce how they feel. That makes me feel angry!

Beautiful game. Loved it. My only problem is the 'game' itself. When I encounter the 'glitch', I want to feel as if I was doing something in the first place. At least put a few levels in front of it, so the surprise is bigger and the meaning is greater.

Because of the setup, I felt as if there was no game in the first place, just the underworld thing.

Sorry, too frustrating, I attempted to do this one, two, three times and more...and then got annoyed and went "the heck with this!", so I never got to the ending.

The part I was stuck on was that part after that one where you have to jump on the mid-air squares with ghosts under them and if you fall and hit a gray square you die; the part above that is where I am always stuck; I can't jump in the right way and reach the gold thing that makes obstacles disappear, and everytime I die I have to start from the beginning; this wouldn't be THAT frustrating...except often when I fall I end up on one of the squares below, so when I die I am reloaded DOWN there and have to go back all the way till I get on the upper part again...and then it happens again...and again...and again...

VERY frustrating. I give up.

That was pretty cool. I pretty much just wandered around the whole time, but I never got stuck or felt frustrated. I agree with Glaucon that it seems like the game was designed so that you can have no idea what you're doing, but still be pushed in the right direction.

I think I'd ask the developer to add a console, but change nothing else, so I could talk to the game :D

...Hey, it wouldn't die if I never updated, now would it?

What, so you couldn't have made it so that once you won, you would return to the first room and actually be able to get the powerup? :P

Good game. A bit frustrating in places (I got stuck for an incredibly long time in the area where clouds and colors make their first appearance), and (other than that) a bit short, but I found it a very enjoyable little game.

PS: What's this epiphany people are talking about?

Did anyone else notice that the static playing out in the background is actually Conway's Game Of Life? Light grey blocks are new cells, and the darker and more transparent ones are old cells.

Deeply moving.

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