An innovative puzzle game that twists expectations but sometimes wears out its welcome
There Is No Game was originally created in 2015 during a NewGrounds game jam where it won under the theme of “deception.” Developed in HTML5 by Draw Me A Pixel, the game was deceptive because its primary task is to convince the player that there is, in fact, no game. Pushing that short idea into a full, fleshed out release, we have There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (TINGWD), a follow up that expands the original idea into a fully fledged adventure game. It breaks the fourth wall in all the best ways and uses multimedia art to punctuate some major plot twists.
TINGWD presents itself as an old school point and click adventure. Using a mouse cursor to interact with the events unfolding, you explore a variety of precarious situations, find hidden objects and use them on the environment in unexpected ways to solve the current puzzle. This may sound generic, but it’s tricky to pin down what exactly this game is as it changes from chapter to chapter. The premise purposely tries to alter your expectations and surprise you with new and unpredictable ways to think about games as a whole.
It all begins with a title screen, “There Is No Game.” All options and credits also suggest that this game does not exist. Then we are introduced to the narrator known as “Game” who does his darndest to convince you of the non-existence of said game. Get the idea? By clicking on the sign we are able to break apart letters, create a version of Brick Breaker, unlock hidden locks and mute, all against the protests of Game. This process of exploring the screens for hidden interactables and using found key items properly remains throughout, but the context continues to change.
Following the initial start menu first chapter, the story continues throughout a Legend of Zelda knock off (complete with fairy companion and secret-discovery sound effect), a-free-to-play mobile game, and even a LucasArts adventure game. TINGWD pokes fun at the process of game design and developing games as a whole, while remembering to point the camera at itself a few times, too (including a couple of jabs at a failed kickstarter campaign as well). The writing is top notch and corny, but in the best way. Regrettably, some puzzles do take longer to parse than others, so hearing the same voice lines repeatedly can be grating. Luckily, the handy hint system does provide enough clues that you’ll rarely get stuck (unless you’re stubborn).
The story feels well rounded and the characters that do exist become loveable, even the pesky narrator. Despite the shorter run time, some chapters did feel like they overstayed their welcome. Ideas were often reused and one chapter was simply a rehash of a previous one but with more annoying mechanics added in. You could tell that there was a joke to be made, but it was dragged out until it was no longer funny. Pushing past these segments does lead to more satisfying moments such as the adventure game meta moment. Retreading games of the past, you interact with a classic PC adventure game but solve puzzles by interacting with the actual TV set. It’s actually pretty brilliant with tons of “A-HA” moments and NPC interactions.
Creating a genre-spanning adventure game is no small feat, but to do so while subverting all expectations is something to be applauded. TINGWD does all these things and more. It’s successful in melding comedy and thought-provoking gameplay. Some tropes wear out their welcome eventually, but pushing past the annoyances yields a gaming triumph. It fits among other progressive games like the Stanley Parable or Thomas Was Alone but carves out its own unique space. There isn’t anything like There Is No Game. Well, there isn’t really a game at all, right?