Incredipede, and the horrors it compelled me to make
Incredipede lets you build creatures by pulling boney limbs out of a central blinking eye, then stringing them together with exposed muscles. It's pretty fun! It's also very hard to make anything that isn't utterly, utterly horrific.
Imagine a spider turning itself inside out. Imagine a ten-legged snake having a prolapse. Imagine a malformed starburst of twitching limbs trying to walk. These are things you will see. These are things you will create. It will be on your conscience. Here's one of mine that I can only wincingly describe as a sort of pyramid of knuckles:
Once you've built your creature, you control it on levels made of floating platforms, trying to nudge bits of fruit into a beam of light. Control, though, is perhaps a charitable word. You interactively convulse. Press A to twist yourself into a broken heap, and press D to unfurl back into a more recognisable crime against nature.
For all that, Incredipede isn't hard to play, at first. For 20 levels or so, I fused together horrors of tissue and bone that could spasm gracelessly towards the exit with enough panicky mashing of the two keys.
But when it does get hard, you start to appreciate just how little you understand it. What can I make that can walk across lava? Well, I haven't made anything that can actually walk. I've specialised more in things that flick themselves around like injured locusts.
The difficulty comes from the muscles. There are two types of them you can add to any limb, but how they respond to your input is really weird. Rather than having a different key for each, both keys control them all. And rather than contracting when the key is held, the muscles go through a continuous cycle of contraction and expansion until you let go. This makes every limb on your creature rotate: one muscle type clockwise, the other counter.
If you're finding that hard to picture, you're not alone. 20 levels in I still have a hard time visualising what my creature will do when I start playing, and even once I find out, I find it difficult to see what needs changing to make it move coherently. The only change it really cries out for is the cold bliss of death.
But I'm learning. After studying creator Colin Northway's video of how to make a spider - the least creepy thing you can build - I managed to bioengineer one myself. And even when you've copied your life form from someone else, it's satisfying to make it move.
When you finally start making your own creature concepts work, it's a grisly thrill. For the lava level, I eventually came up with my own solution. Instead of legs, my beast has two long, horizontal limbs. From both I've affixed an array of dangling shins, all of which pinwheel to slap it scrapingly forward across the ground. How does that avoid touching the lava? It doesn't. Limbraft, I'm calling it, compensates for its inability to avoid searing its own legs off with an ingenious countermeasure: many legs.
Most of them burnt away as it scrambled frantically across the molten rock, and I actually had to dip some of them in intentionally when I discovered I was too tall to collect the low-hanging bonus fruit. But I made it with enough functioning limbs to ram my wincing eye into the glowing ground that marks the end of the level, and in this version of natural selection, that's a win.
Incredipede is out later this month. You can buy it now for $12 and get access to the beta.