Today I Die
Since even before I Wish I Were the Moon, Daniel Benmergui has been answering an interesting question: What are the narrative possibilities of a game where the player's only method of interaction is to move objects from place to place, one at a time?
I Wish I Were the Moon solved the problem by offering several different endings, with a simple means of reaching each one. It was charming, and inspiring in its clean originality, but it left an unwritten question: What if these same interaction techniques were applied to a single purpose? What if it all added up to something greater?
This is that game. With nothing onscreen but a few blocky characters and a short poem, Today I Die carves a slice out of an existential nightmare and serves it to you raw. You could classify it as an adventure game or a puzzle game, but it doesn't feel like it should be pigeon-holed with anything. The solutions are so well-integrated, applied with such holistic grace. You won't even realize how many jigsaw pieces are displaced until you discover how they fit together.
Inflated low-resolution sprites have become a shorthand for interactive narrative experiments. See Gray, Don't Look Back, and The Majesty of Colors for examples. Without complex characters and animation to distract you, the direct spark between player and game calls focus. Your brain turns on because it has to, in order to make sense of the visuals.
As satisfying as each moment is, Today I Die is still a very short ride. The exciting thing, more than the game itself, is the path it blazes—a true integration of story and interplay, unmanageable by any other medium but games. If this is a poem, imagine a novel. Somewhere, a budding game designer is playing Today I Die, brain suddenly burning with the possibilities.