50% PUZZLE GAME, 50% PIXEL-POP-ART PROJECT, 100% WEIRD!
In this old-school cyberpunk-themed game, you are fighting to control the spread of a binary virus in a computer’s memory. By doing so, you progressively reveal the portrait of a famous ‘80s British pop-star. The virus is both friend and foe though, as only recovered memory blocks (those that were once infected) display parts of the hidden picture.
There are two visualisation modes: “scanner” which shows the whole memory, where infected blocks appear as “static” and recovered ones as bits of the background image, and “zoomed in” where both types display a binary number between 0 and 3 (“00”, “01”, “10” and “11”). You toggle between modes by pressing the “Z” key. In both modes, navigation uses the directional (arrow) keys. When you press “Z” while in “scanner” mode to enter “zoomed in” mode, the block that was at the centre of the green crosshair is selected.
While “zoomed in” you can repair memory blocks by swapping them. There is a single rule: you can exchange positions between the selected block and one of its four adjacent neighbours IFF (if and only if) they are both infected AND the neighbour’s number is one unit higher (modulo 4, hence “-P” for “periodic”). In other words: if the selected block is “00” it can be swapped with an adjacent block numbered “01”, “01” with “10”, “10” with “11” and “11” with “00”. To swap, keep “X” pressed while typing the arrow key pointing to the targeted neighbour. After a correct move, the selected block will have changed state from “infected” to “recovered”, the targeted neighbour will have become selected and their binary values will have been swapped.
N.B.: the epidemic pauses while “zoomed in”. “Recovered blocks are immune to the virus and cannot be re-infected. Any infected block completely surrounded by recovered neighbours recovers spontaneously. In “zoomed in” mode, recovered blocks have black digits on white background, infected ones the other way around. The selected block is highlighted (brighter). Susceptible blocks (not yet infected) are marked by two dots. From a fully infected state, there is always at least one solution (i.e. a sequence of 1023 “swap” moves that will result in all blocks being recovered). Good luck finding it though! ;-)
Once I got a hang of it it was very enjoyable. It felt less lika a game and more like an experience, at one oint it actually felt like work (which was a good zen moment).
I wish there were more pics to uncover, maybe include more by encoding some as strings if the memory allows it?
Nevertheless, very cool!
Thanks for your kind comment, Level27Geek!
Yes, I cannot bear to play it for more than a few minutes myself and never uncovered more than maybe one third of the image at a time! It IS a bit fastidious isn't it? ;-)
The portrait is currently encoded using a "home-made" algorithm which was only meant to obfuscate it in the sprite sheet. As a result, the compression factor is very poor (maybe 0.5) and the sprite sheet is almost full. No doubt it could be substantially improved. But manually converting the original photo to an acceptable rendition in less than 16 colours was very work-intensive, so I'm not sure I want to inflict that upon myself again to make a second one!
For that reason, I was also toying with the idea of replacing the portrait with a procedurally generated geometric pattern that could be different every time you play (a nice fractal object or something).
I also spent more time on this than I care to admit. Something very addictive about the ruleset and was great when I could chain a few together. I also like how you got the virus to wrap around on both the x and y planes. I ended up uncovering about 2/3rds of the image. I can imaging she took you a long time to draw in pico!
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