The Needles

The Needles: Devil's Tuning Fork - An Indie Innovation

Andy Chalk | 12 Jan 2010 21:00
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Still, there's no question that it ends up feeling more like a tech demo or proof of concept than an actual game. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; the hit Valve release, Portal, evolved from similarly modest roots, after all. But after all the hype, it's fair warning to anyone going into Devil's Tuning Fork expecting it to revolutionize their world. It's not going to.

You should try it anyway. It's something different, which in a medium packed with cookie-cutter shooters and sports games is enough of a reason to give it a go. For those of you looking to impress the ladies, it's also a good way to dip your toes in the dreaded "art game" genre with something that's actually accessible. Even if you don't finish it (although given the length of the thing, there's really no excuse not to), it's worthwhile making your way through the first tutorial level just to see the primary game mechanic in action.

It's rare that a game really brings something new to an established genre. One such effort in the first-person genre was Thief: The Dark Project, a critical darling that turned established conventions inside-out by suggesting, and sometimes insisting, that gamers kill absolutely nobody while playing the game. Perhaps because of that unusual approach, it failed to really catch fire and since then, innovation within the genre has been slight, to put it generously. In fact, the first truly original game to rise up from the first-person morass in recent years is the previously mentioned Portal, which began life as a senior project by students of the DigiPen Institute of Technology called Narbacular Drop.

I'm beginning to see it as akin to college sports in the U.S.: Just like big league teams compete to sign star players from elite schools, so too could mainstream game developers begin keeping a closer eye on students at the college level, looking for gems like Narbacular Drop or Devil's Tuning Fork and the people with the creativity and skills to bring them to life. In many ways, game-focused college courses are already a sort of farm system for major developers and it's not too unreasonable to think that at some point in the near future, the IGF could become a sort of major-league draft for big developers and publishers.

For gamers, such a system also represents a chance to "vote with your wallet" without having to actually involve your wallet or anything that might be inside of it. Want to see Devil's Tuning Fork get a shot at the bigs? Download it, try it, offer feedback and spread the word. Not every game in the world is going to be turned into a major hit, but supporting those that really deserve it can help make good things happen. Devil's Tuning Fork is one of those games. Grab a copy at devilstuningfork.com and see for yourself.

Andy Chalk's ongoing love affair with artsy-fartsy games continues.

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