Dead Like Ants

  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (44 votes)
Comments (20) | Views (1,011)

DeadLikeAntsJessIt was recently estimated that there are nearly seven billion human beings alive today. Incredible. The most remarkable aspect of the human condition, however, is not simply how many of us there are. What is truly astounding is that each individual is unique, a single and unduplicated combination of nature and nurture that can never be replicated or replaced.

Now, imagine what it would be like to be stripped of that individuality, to be just one of an army of identical workers, a cog in the machine, undifferentiated by any special ability or trait. There might be a certain satisfaction in such an existence. It could be nice to be able to abandon the search for meaning, to know without hesitation exactly who you are and where you belong... or, at least, that's what you'd tell yourself. But what if, one day, you had the chance to stand out? What if you, among all your identical peers, were called upon to perform an important task, and perhaps even take on a position of leadership and power? Such an opportunity might be irresistible even to your own humble heart.

In Dead Like Ants, a sublime piece of interactive fiction by C.E.J. Pacian, this is precisely the situation you find yourself in. You are an unnamed female ant, a simple worker. You and your thousands of sisters labor ceaselessly in the service of your colony; an unexciting, if productive, existence. Today, however, is very different. Your mother, the Queen — whom you have never before laid eyes upon — has requested your presence! She has a very special task for you. Every spring, it seems, five dangerous creatures come to the colony and threaten the safety of all therein. When this occurs, the Queen sends one of her daughters to negotiate with these monsters, thereby averting trouble for another year. This spring, you are the chosen emissary. What an honor!

Of course, you're not sure what to do when you actually encounter these creatures. Your mother didn't really specify. Still, it couldn't be that hard, right? You wouldn't dream of turning down such an extraordinary gesture of trust and esteem from the Queen. Best of all, your mother has hinted that if you succeed you may earn your wings, just like her own graceful pair. Best not to try her patience and keep her waiting...

Analysis: The premise of Dead Like Ants seems straightforward enough: resolve the conflicts posed by the five dangerous creatures threatening the colony. This could easily become an epic quest, but Pacian chooses instead to go down a simpler, more poetic route. The game's main goal is not so much to present a steep intellectual challenge as it is to tell a story and offer a thought-provoking experience; on those counts, the game succeeds brilliantly. Pacian possesses real talents in the realms of language and characterization, and the game's insect cast in particular benefits from his (or is it her?) skills. A snail becomes a snooty, aristocratic lawyer, a butterfly a coquettish damsel-in-distress; these quirky portrayals make perfect sense within the story. Also, despite the game's somewhat serious and sometimes dark mien, there are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments.

One benefit to Dead Like Ants' story-centric approach is that, to those new to the wonderful world of interactive fiction, the game will be relatively accessible and unintimidating (particularly when compared to sublime but exponentially more difficult games like Varicella or Anchorhead). While there is plenty to discover within the game's framework, the commands/actions needed to simply reach the end are fairly straightforward. Pacian further increases the game's user-friendly quotient by including an instruction and hint system within the game; simply type "About" and you'll find all the help you'll need.

There is much more that I'd like to say about this deeply clever, poignant and sweetly macabre piece of interactive fiction. However, like the wonderfully enigmatic point-and-click adventure Bars of Black and White, a large part of the enjoyment derived from playing Dead Like Ants lies in the thrill of sudden, unnerving understanding; despite what one might assume, you will find that this is a game with, to say the least, an unusual goal. It's time to leave safety in the pursuit of greatness. Steady your heart and straighten your spine!

Download Dead Like Ants (Mac/Windows/Linux, 1MB, free)

To play this game, you'll need both the game file and an interpreter. Download Dead Like Ants from the Interactive Fiction database followed by an interpreter for your OS: Gargoyle for Windows, Zoom for Macintosh and Unix.


Clever. But I'd expect no less from the author of Gun Mute.

For those seeking maximum points: be sure to examine the painting at the end.


On my Linux system (Kubuntu Jaunty) I found that the QTads interpreter works better than Zoom:

It should be in your repositories, or you can get it from the above link.


Oh, wow, IF - please do more reviews of such delightful things.


You know it's a good game when you play it at 6AM and are still thinking about it now.

Anonymous May 25, 2009 3:45 PM

Great review ... but the player never meets a snail or a butterfly over the course of the game.

Pavitra May 25, 2009 4:44 PM

I prefer Gargoyle for Linux.


JiG Guest:

Damselfly is another name for butterfly, and the man in the spiral house was the snail, not a worm.


If the

damsel was a butterfly, what was its "hat," and why would it drown an ant? And what was the artist? I feel as though these should be obvious, so maybe I'm just being dense.

I really enjoyed this one, even if it was short.


Let me clear this up:

Damselflies are actually more closely related to dragonflies than butterflies, which catch their prey over water, but have wings that look more like a butterfly's- parallel, not perpendicular to the body. They also have a rather interesting and brightly colored head, which may have been represented by the hat.

The artist, in read cloak and black clothing, is a ladybug.



I'm pretty sure ladybugs don't eat ants..

I feel as though the author could have picked some more appropriate creatures just so it would make more sense. But they were all nicely and cleverly described.

TinyToaster May 25, 2009 7:42 PM

If you don't know what kind of bug each of the characters represents,

check your score (by typing "score") after getting eaten by each individual one. It spells it out for you directly.


Yeah... the guy in the house isn't a snail

He's a parasitic worm that ATE the snail! It's a spiral house (snail shell), he comments that the previous owner is in a "better place" (i.e. dead) and he has a jar of sauce to use with escargo (snails). Plus, if you read the Afterward, it says the only character with a name is "the late" Cornu Aspersa Esq. Plus, plus after he eats you, if you check your full score, it refers to him as a "parasitic worm."

Totally fantastic game, though. Thanks for the review, Jess!

I also recommend that everyone who hasn't done so, check out Pacian's game Gun Mute.

sparrow May 25, 2009 11:07 PM

Thanks! I love when you review IF. I was first introduced to it here and really enjoy it! I've started this one and love the use of language (widdershins, sunwise, whorl). I feel like I'm engulfed in the world already.


Only after checking my full score did I understand what the queen meant by negotiating.


I'd love if you guys would host more IF on your online interpreter. I know you have to get permission to do so, but I'd love to see more IF on JIG that doesn't require downloading.


I agree 100% with what joye said.


Disturbing, and oddly sad. But very enjoyable, a quick play.


I'm stuck.

How do I get past the knight?


^ Scroll Up | Homepage >

Leave a comment [top of page]

    Please consider creating a Casual Gameplay account if you're a regular visitor here, as it will allow us to create an even better experience for you. Sign-up here!
  • You may use limited HTML tags for style:
    (a href, b, br/, strong, em, ul, ol, li, code, spoiler)
    HTML tags begin with a less-than sign: < and end with a greater-than sign: >. Always. No exceptions.
  • To post spoilers, please use spoiler tags: <spoiler> example </spoiler>
    If you need help understanding spoiler tags, read the spoiler help.
  • Please Preview your comment before posting, especially when using spoilers!
  • No link dropping, no domains as names; do not spam, and do not advertise! (rel="nofollow" in use)
Aquatic Rescue> Dora Also available on mobile devices, OZDY takes you under da sea for an adorable physics puzzle game where you need to reunite baby sea creatures with their parents, though with moving platforms, wrecking balls, switches, buttons that make you shrink or grow and more, it's trickier than you think!  ...
1 Comment
Monkey GO Happy Turkeys> Dora It's Thanksgiving day! But how can you celebrate without a feast! Help the monkeys look all over town in this point-and-click puzzle game from Pencil Kids to find everything they need, including a whole lot of apples, and the bird of honor!  ...
Hoverboard> Dora Webcomic xkcd has been around for over a decade, and to celebrate the release of his new book, creator Randall Munroe has created a very simple piece of platforming interactive art. But venture beyond the small playing field, and you'll find a much bigger world than you thought that's full of surprises.  ...
Rock 'n' Roll Escape> Dora Pine Studio serves up a short but rock-worthy escape in your browser or free on iOS and Android as you try to find your way out of a cozy, abandoned little concert venue. But with a soundtrack this catchy, will you be able to resist air-guitaring long enough to escape?  ...

Support Us

Jayisgames is on Patreon

Recent Comments


Display 5 more comments
Limit to the last 5 comments

Casual game of the week

Mystery Trackers: Paxton Creek Avenger

Your Favorite Games edit

Save links to your favorite games here. Use the Favorites editor.

Monthly Archives

Legal notice

All games mentioned or hosted and images appearing on JayIsGames are Copyright their respective owner(s).

All other content is Copyright ©2003-2016 All Rights Reserved.

Visit our great partner: maxcdn!