Four sweaty young men lie groaning on the floor, aching, bruised and out of breath. Three feet away a battered keyboard lies up-ended on the carpet. Nobody knows who has won, but everyone is giggling like an idiot. This is the aftermath of one round of the indie party game B.U.T.T.O.N.
It stands for Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally Okay Now, and it's essentially a real-life beat-'em-up. In the beginning, every player chooses a button on the keyboard, and the game then unfolds in three stages.
Stage one. The nervous step back. A message appears on screen telling everyone to take up to seven paces away from the keyboard. Even now, things can go wrong. The game has no way of knowing what's going on in your front room. Halfway through the first step back, one of your friends could throw themselves bodily onto the keyboard shouting “Mine! Mine!” and there's nothing you can do about it. Except perhaps kick him a little bit.
Stage two: dance like a monkey. An instruction will appear on screen telling everyone to do something stupid. It could ask you to sing happy birthday, or spin around three times, or link arms – anything. Of course, after half a second of trumpeting like an elephant, one of your friends might make a break for the controller. At this stage a deft trip can be helpful. Brutally unfair? Yes. But that's the point.
Stage three: murder death kill. After a three-second countdown, an instruction will appear telling you to do something to your button. It could be to press it 18 times, or hold it down for four seconds, or not touch it at all. Whatever it is, everyone in the room must dash forward frantically to attempt to seize control of the keyboard.
Then, anything goes. It's war. We push, shove, elbow and claw our way to the controller. In that moment nothing else matters beyond the need to just get to that button and- QQQQQQQQQQ!
Sorry. Got a bit carried away there, but that's what B.U.T.T.O.N. does so well. It whips everyone into the room into a giggling frenzy in the space of a few on screen instructions, which makes it a brilliant party game. Beyond those flashcards, however, there's nothing to it. Once the round is over the game resets. There are no profiles to keep track of your score, and only the one game mode. There should be a way to disable the escape key as well. Too often a manic bodyflop would cause the game to close down completely, which isn't ideal when you're all pumped up.
Still, in the extremely limited field of PC party games, B.U.T.T.O.N. reigns supreme. It may be limited and simplistic, but it's bloody good fun. It's easily worth the £1.50 asking price if you're throwing a party and you've got the space. Just be sure to move anything valuable well out of the way before you start.