If you’ve only played Windosill, you also need to stop what you’re doing and pick up his similarly amazing iPad app Feed the Head (also available in miniature iPhone form), and then Levers and smaller toys Acrobots and Carousel, at which point all your iOS devices will be at maximum (read: proper) wonder-levels.
Following a conversation earlier today about the enduring brilliance of Patrick Smith, best known as Vectorpark, I thought it was long past due to feature some of his non-interactive work, here with a 2007 painting called Cabin, which, along with this Citadel pencil drawing, should look somewhat familiar to anyone that’s played through his fantastically enchanting Windosill.
If you even briefly touched, let alone played through, Patrick Smith’s recent point-and-click hyper-surreal puzzler Windosill, you will have instantly realized the effortless ease with which he’s able to turn little vector objects into living, breathing digital things (this is especially true for a certain turning-point scene in Windo).
As I noted at the time, Windosill was just the latest in a long line of these digital toys and distractions, which Smith has just begun porting to the iPhone, including one of his best, Levers [App Store link]. Levers is as subtle and atmospheric as they come: as you’d gather from the screenshot above it’s a succession of increasingly difficult balancing acts.
Each perfect balance tosses a new object into the ocean below that has to be carefully counter-weighted with all the things before it, while its livelier objects (see: the blackbirds above) obliviously confound your progress just by nature of their self-animate presence.
Also added to the App Store is Smith’s Acrobots [App Store link], even more of a simple digital distraction, but also more of exactly what he does best: rendering ‘emotion’ in characters even as abstracted as the ‘bots above.
There are no goals in Acrobots, simply a series of variables and controls which the ‘bots must obey, as they either actively flip and spring off one another (the Acro- part), or simply try to build themselves into a stable structure, which is where their carefully seeking feet (thrown off by their tri-pedal-ness) reach out for one another in a way that’s honestly kind of heartbreaking when they can’t find a mate/wall to match.
Of the two, Levers will obviously provide you with the better game experience, and it’s worth noting there’s a Lite version of Acrobots that’s just gone live. Both of the toys are also previewable/playable on the web (Levers / Acrobots), but both are perfectly suited for the iPhone as it lets them be exactly what they should be: diversions that let you directly touch a realistic but otherwise fantastic world.
Like James ‘presstube/insertsilence’ Paterson, the Flash creations Patrick Smith has been creating over the past five plus years as ‘Vectorpark‘ haven’t quite penetrated the games industry’s consciousness as much as they should have, and maybe fair enough: his earliest creations like Levers and especially later updates like FeedTheHead were as much interactive toys as anything (the line’s blurrier with Park, which initially bears an uncanny thematic resemblance to Amanita‘s later Samorost).
But that’s fully changed with Windosill, Smith’s latest creation, where each single screen has a single goal to progress to the next: namely, finding a single pink cube via simple point/click/drag interactions which will unlock the right-hand door of each diorama.
But even still, it’s not necessarily the rules of the game that are the draw as much as the successively more involved exploration that takes place in each area to get to that block, all a culmination of (and with overt throwbacks to) objects of Smith’s earlier output.
And that exploration wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding were it not for Smith’s ability to somehow have teased out (with the aid, I can only conclude, of some dark, black magic) easily the greatest sense of physicality Flash (still, remember, an essentially 2D toolkit) has ever produced. Everything has such a well defined heft and tension, everything responds to your prodding with just the right amount of ‘squishiness’, that even its most surreal concoctions feel fantastically alive.
The free demo version of the game will get you roundabout halfway through, and, it should be said up front, it’s absolutely worth the $3 pittance Smith asks to continue on to the end, as there’s one single screen — and it kills me to not splash it all over the page here — that so perfectly both bends the rules of the game up to that point and typifies that magically-alive hyper-reality that it’s worth the admission alone.