Under The Radar is a weekly look at games that have ended up hidden through lack of coverage, but shouldn’t have been. If you have a game that you think should be featured here, leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure to check it out.
I think that video games’ defining element is dynamic, mechanical interaction; they can do other things, but they do that best. While most character-based games have the conceit that players are controlling a character’s physical being, few dare to focus on the minute mechanics on the human form. Today’s games do exactly that though.
At this point, 2008’s Atheltics—more commonly known as QWOP—is Flash game canon. Developed by Bennett Foddy, QWOP has players controlling the thighs and calves of an athlete as he runs along a track. Running is easily one of the most mundane activities in video games, and characters often perform far more impressive acrobatic stunts with just a push of joystick and the pull of a trigger. QWOP turns that convention on its head though, as controlling such a small section of a character becomes a trial, with players having to learn a rhythm to the movement that isn’t immediately accessible.
If managing to drag the character 20 meters with legs splayed out wasn’t tension enough, a song is triggered by players who manage to get the character into an actual stride. The tones of the song are often teased, but never fully heard for those starting out. It makes the music all the more glorious when people manage to get a full sprint on. Clop attempts to do a similar thing, but with a much lighter tone.
Thanks to the folks over at Indie Games for pointing out this little gem. Involuntary Runner was developed by DePaul University student Eric Spevacek. Where QWOP had players focusing on the characters exterior limbs, Involuntary Runner has them focusing on the internal organs of the character. If managing limbs on a rhythmic pattern wasn’t difficult enough, imagine managing the lungs, heart, stomach and intestine. Players control all four of those organs as a faceless man in suit and tie runs across a dreamy landscape. The systems are interdependent, with lungs providing a sort of max level for the heart rate which determines speed, and the stomach digesting food tossed along the way that turns into gas that can launch players up. If QWOP feels like driving a manual transmission car, Involuntary Runner feels like conducting an old steam engine.