Coil is a game unlike any other; it may confuse you, it may offend you, or it might mystify and move you. It is the latest from Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl, the duo whose previous collaboration brought us a game called Triachnid.
The authors suggest carrying an open mind with you as you adventure within their creation, discovering for yourself the artistic expression they have conceived. Once you have played through the experience it offers, come back, read what we have here and discuss your conception of the game in the comments.
If you wish to know more, Coil is a short series of mini-games involving the gestation of what appears to be an alien fetus, from initial insemination through adulthood when a murky twilight leaves its fate in question and the cycle starts anew. The text between chapters is equally vague, like detached poetry that gives clues as to how to play, and yet it also suggests a possibly darker subtext to why the impregnation happened in the first place.
The game perhaps gives an idea of what this alien primal consciousness might be like, and it tells this story through exquisite art work and tight programming. Like other games from Komix, Coil features a distinctly illustrative look coupled with unusual mechanics, but he takes that kind of experimentation further, much further. If you aren't put off by its non-traditional interaction or it's chilling implications, you may have the first really meaningful game experience of this year.
Gameplay generally involves moving the mouse in circles, as clued by the initial title screen, with some exceptions. That's all I can really say without ruining the exploration. Sometimes an experience generates only strong positive or negative responses, nothing in between. And maybe that's a sign of real art, not good or bad, just distinct.
Psychotronic - My first instinct was to approach writing about Coil from the perspective of an art review, which suggests this is no ordinary Flash game. I thought about how the technical choices might contribute to the game's meaning and/or emotional weight; such as the the indirect means of control paired with the fluidity of movement. How it combines recognizable biological features with more fantastical elements to keep the player balanced between instinct and curiosity. Where it plays on familiar video game language and where it breaks expectations. How the gameplay ambiguities force the player to pay closer attention to the poetry, looking for clues as to how the next level is played. There is much here worthy of discussion. But most of all, I'd like to urge people to play it before they read the whole review, and then offer up their thoughts in the comments.
Jess - Coil is a little bit like a David Lynch film to me; depending how you see it, either drenched with meaning and implication or an ultimately empty exercise in smoke and mirrors. I haven't personally decided yet which side I fall onto. A few things are certain, however; the game is thoughtful, aesthetically pleasing and sure to ignite debate. And whatever else I or anyone else may feel about Coil, that conversation-provoking quality is invaluable.
A word of caution: this isn't necessarily one for the kids. ...Or is it?