When we're not putting in public appearances at glamorous new game premieres and attending the obligatory charity benefit galas, we here at JiG are striving to bring you the very best games the internet has to offer. It's not the fame, the fortune, or even the contractually-stipulated pixelated black chrysanthemums in our trailers that motivates us. It's our sincere love of games, and our desire to improve your day by sharing them with you. Once in a great while, a rare game comes along that is not only innovative and enjoyable to play, but manages to affect us on a more fundamental level. Social Caterpillar, a logic puzzle adventure from Twelve Tiles Games, accomplished just that and became an instant personal favorite.
Social Caterpillar is a refreshingly original game about introversion, and goes about demonstrating what it's like by modelling the game's mechanics from it. Conversations with other characters take on the look and feel of an old-school RPG battle, but instead of attacking you're presented with some bizarre shape pattern or geometrical design and must use the [arrows] to navigate the conversation by choosing the appropriate shape or pattern in response. Get the series of logic puzzles for an NPC correct, and you'll earn experience points. For each one you flub, your energy level decreases until you end up back in your room to recover.
Rather tellingly, you replenish your energy by playing video games... something that will strike a chord in a lot of us. Even successful conversations draw your energy meter down a little, as does trudging further and further from the sanctity of your bedroom to cope with various social ordeals like getting along with the folks, meeting new people, getting by with foreigners who have entirely different social contexts, and maybe... just maybe... finding romance to give your life meaning and value. Success in that department is anything but guaranteed, and even if you succeed you'll need to manage a happy balance between personal space and intimacy. Will you live together, or in different houses? If you live together, what happens to using your bedroom as your retreat from the world? The game's creator, Lannie "Merlandese" Neely III, even thoughtfully provided a gender option feature for your in-game partner, to ensure that everyone would feel included here.
You keep successfully navigating logic puzzles to complete conversations, and those bring you experience points to improve your level. With new levels come larger energy reserves, which allow you to interact with new and unfamiliar environments, as well as bonuses like little upgrades appearing in your room... just the thing to keep someone who loves their solo time happy. It's not just the Harvest Moon feel of your room, the Pokemon battle format of the conversations or the Nintendo look of the whole thing that make Social Caterpillar the success it is, it's also the little things. Spotting little caterpillars hiding in nearly every screen and interacting with them, or the cozy, nostalgic Level Up! animation you get every time you make a level, Social Caterpillar takes you back just like soft flannel feetie pajamas, day-glo colored breakfast cereals that should probably come with insulin packs, and Saturday morning cartoons. And from that comfortable, safe place it shows you what being an introvert is like.
If you have friends who are introverts and would like to understand what's going on with them, don't pass this up. Its low price tag means it would also make a very thoughtful gift for any introverted friends, and you can watch them brighten and come out of their shell with the realization that SOMEONE ELSE GETS IT. The game is DRM-free, is conservatively estimated at an hour long by the developer (only if you're preturnaturally good with logic puzzles, otherwise count on at least three) and comes with a no-questions-asked refund policy due to the lack of a demo. With a game this well-made and well-presented, we can't imagine many players taking them up on that in good conscience, unless logic puzzles and introversion aren't your thing. Now if you'll excuse me, I've... I've got something in my eye.
Get the full version