What I like about browser games is that clicking on a word in this mundane piece of software could take you anywhere, to anything. For example, if you click on this link to the domain corru.observer, you’ll find yourself in a dark room before a strange glowing device. Apparently it’s your job to do… something with it? So begins one of the most surprising and delightful games I’ve played all year, a sprawling, shape-shifting sci-fi story which is still unfolding through updates. I didn’t even know all this was possible with HTML and CSS.

Honestly, click the link and go play. Head in fresh. Discover. Enjoy. I myself bumbled across it one Screenshot Saturday Monday then started playing and sat rapt for hours. But if you need a little more encouragement to click on a link and wait a few seconds (for shame!), I’ll start explaining more after using the game’s first scene as a vision-blocking break.

Exploring a life inside a strange device in Corru.Observer.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/corru.works

Corru.Observer begins as a visual novel. We’re dropped into the world without explanation, quickly realising we’re working for a government agency to analyse a strange artifact. While the game does give a little room to probe people for information, it largely treats the player like our character, introducing ideas and events as if you’d naturally know them. I really enjoyed discovering the foundations of the plot in this way, alternating between a delighted daze of discovery then the “Ahhh!” moments of understanding what had been going on. Okay but really, now I’m going to start revealing things. Just go play it first, okay.

Exploring a life inside a strange device in Corru.Observer.

Exploring a life inside a strange device in Corru.Observer.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/corru.works

Corru.Observer is set in the near future where an alien species visited Earth on a scientific mission but, you come to understand, something went terribly wrong several decades ago. The central weird device is a techno-organic computer of sorts, containing (among other things) the fragmented memories of one alien. As we jack into this corrucyst across shifts at our job, we play through different memories and learn more about the aliens, their mission, their lives, and their demise. The game changes shape across the way, developing from a visual novel or first-person adventure game to eventually a tactical RPG with party members and combat. Just when I’d feel I fully understood what Corru.Observer was, the extent of what it could be, it would delightfully shift or add new systems. And there’s a whole other layer which develops and cracks and intrudes as our operator pokes around inside this un-inert device and discovers its apparent realities may be malleable.

The game shifts tone as it goes, from initial mystery and discovery, through the social and working lives of the aliens, into dramatic action, then pushing through to wider mystery, and I’m impressed the writing is adept at all these. I want to say it grows into a sort of ‘young adult sci-fi adventure’ vibe but that sounds derisive, and I don’t mean it to be. I hope this group of friends can save the world together. It’s dead pretty, too, also shifting styles as it moves through different perceptions. I didn’t even realise modern browser games could do all this as with HTML and CSS. And the excellent soundtrack is well worth a trip to Bandcamp.

Exploring a life inside a strange device in Corru.Observer.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/corru.works

It’s stronger for being a browser game rather than a standalone downloadable. Just as you find the memories, mysteries, and hopes of an alien civilisation inside a scrap orb, this game hides inside the same software you’d use to open an e-mail from your aunt or read toothpaste reviews. You simply see the name Corru.Observer and click on it, maybe even just because you’re surprised that .observer is apparently a real top-level domain. You do not enter through a store page with an auto-playing trailer and attention-grabbing marketing copy which reveals a calculated amount of plot. You do not even see a download size giving a vague hint of how much game might be there. As the world wide web becomes ever more homogenised, dehumanised, and SEO-optimised, rare surprises like this are even more of a treat.

Corru.Observer started in July 2022 with the opening chapter and has continued episodicishly. Every three or four months or so, an update might continue the core story, perhaps go back to expand an older sequence, maybe rework and polish bits. The most recent update, earlier in April, improved performance while rewriting two parts. Growing forwards and backwards while reinforcing. I suppose you could wait until the game is complete and finished before starting, but having started Corru.Observer while incomplete does mean it’s living on in the back of my head longer, and I like that feeling. As long as this game is unfinished, the Internet has a little more magic left.


#amazing #surprising #browser #game #shows #Internet #magical

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *