Review: Small Worlds

Small Worlds is a fairly short exploration game by David Shute.

I found this little gem via You can play it here:

You play as a 1x3 pixel guy in a space station, trying to find a way to escape the noise. There are no enemies, no way of dying, and all you can do is walk and jump. It quickly becomes obvious that the main star here isn’t the main character at all, but rather the level design, which gradually is revealed to you as you explore.

As the player walks around, he lights up/reveals the area near him, and the screen zooms out to keep the entire explored area visible at all times, so at the start of a level, all you see is a small room with a huge column of pixels. Towards the end of a level, you’ve got nice pixellated artwork revealed with a tiny man running around it.

And the levels are beautiful. There’s a noise/canvas overlay to the pixels, breaking the normally hard feel of pixel graphics, and the animations are perfect, with blinking lights, running water and a few nice surprises. It really becomes a challenge in itself to try to reveal the entire level. It’s just too pretty to leave unrevealed.

The actual goal of the game, however, isn’t immediately clear. It’s only after some exploring that you start to figure out what to do, and the game goes from being just pretty to being more interesting narratively (although there is no text in the game).

However, there are some issues. The level design is a bit rude, with plenty of dead ends and one way drops that take you back a bit too far. On one level, you could see the goal immediately, but still were forced to take the longest route possible to get there. I found that quite frustrating, and if took away a lot of the fun of exploring. I felt like the game was intentionally trying to squeeze out as much time from me as possible on that level instead of letting me figure out how to get there.

The dead-ends are often pretty obvious to figure out before hand, but I still found myself entering them in an attempt to reveal as much as possible of the level. But unfortunately, there were a few black areas in some level that I wasn’t able to reveal. It would’ve been nice if it was possible to reveal every single pixel in each level, and possibly to have some kind of reward for revealing an entire level.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play with music or sound effects enabled, so I can’t comment on those.

Play the game. It won’t take long, and it’s a lovely experience.

(Just try to ignore the ads and corporate logos, which kinda spoils it a bit)

posted 13 years ago