A week ago, I complained that too many so-called "exploration" games were actually about collecting doodads and less about the joy of progressively uncovering and understanding more of an immersive, interesting world.
Imagine my surprise and joy when I found (and by "found," I mean "a reader linked me to it") Small Worlds, by David Shute. It's a game about exploration and, pleasantly enough, nothing else.
You progress through the game by working your way through the environments, revealing more and more of the levels with every step. Your view zooms farther and farther away from your avatar as you discover more of each world. In at least one or two cases, you'll discover an underlying logic or minimalist story behind the environments you traverse.
But there are no enemies. No upgrades. No collectibles, no achievements, no puzzles. Nothing to do except explore and reveal. And because of (or, if you're tremendously cynical, despite) these choices, it's an oddly transfixing piece of work. Even the underwhelming ending and sucky jumping mechanics did little to diminish the weirdly Zen enjoyment I got out of merely exploring Small Worlds' five levels.
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