Dundee developers tee up Glitchspace for 2016
With educational videogames becoming increasingly more sophisticated, we take an early look at programming puzzler Glitchspace, an upcoming title from indie studio Space Budgie
There are an increasing number of games on the market designed to teach children the basic ideas and concepts behind programing – and rightly so. You’ve no doubt noticed there are rather a lot of digital devices around these days and it seems only right that we should attempt to imbue young folk with, at the very least, a curiosity of what’s going on underneath the bonnet.
Until recently, school level computer education consisted mainly of exploring some of the more useless features of Microsoft Office, Movie Maker and, on a good day, Paint. There were nods to a deeper understanding but the bulk of the lessons were very much focussing on the surface level. Glitchspace, currently available via Steam Early Access, is attempting to go some way towards making up for a technologically misspent youth.
Glitchspace isn’t going to teach you to be a programmer and it’s not really trying to either. It does, however, present a puzzle game that invites you to engage with the logic of programming in order to progress through the stages. As you move through the Tron-like digital landscape you will encounter barriers to your progress, glitches to which the title refers. Clicking on these anomalies will bring up a new screen featuring a series of commands and instructions which you must connect in such a way that the object blocking your way is removed.
It’s a simple interface that masks the complexity of the puzzle. As the game progresses, more and more options are added to your puzzle solving arsenal, just as the questions being asked of you increase in difficulty. Dundee-based developers Space Budgie describe the game's visual style as being inspired by the work of Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian. One of Mondrian’s most famous pieces is the unfinished Victory Boogie Woogie which could neatly sum up the natural response to completing some of the game’s more fiendish puzzles.
It’s a delight to see an indie developer put so much effort into an educational game that isn’t aimed directly at children, though there’s no reason a child couldn’t explore this game thanks to the well pitched learning curve. Space Budgie have form in this regard with their previous project, 9.03m, which asked players explore the debris from the 2011 Japanese Tsunami and sought to humanise the victims in the face of an incomprehensible death toll. Obviously the subject matter of Glitchspace and 9.03m are very different, however the apparent desire to create a game with an educational element without simply resorting to explanatory cutscenes or dry fact heavy dialogue is highly encouraging.
The current version of the game features a story mode and a sandbox version of the game. ‘Story Mode' is perhaps a misnomer as in the game’s current state there is little in terms of an actual narrative. Instead there is simply a series of increasingly difficult puzzles which isn't really a bad thing. Space Budgie are a small team and seem to have chosen to focus on the core gameplay, meaning there is little to distract the player from the task at hand.The sandbox mode on the other hand allows you to manipulate the glitches in the environment in any way that you see fit, using the skills and logic that the story mode instructs you so carefully in.
Space Budgie expect Glitchspace to leave Early Access next year and on current evidence it’s more than worth keeping an eye on.