Girl: "Welcome to the Leisure Town."
Me: "Ow. Is there anything fun to do?"
Girl: "No mice in the nearby Worm."
With no context, that conversation is probably difficult to understand. Why did I say 'Ow'? What does it mean that there are no mice in the nearby Worm? Why is Worm capitalized when mice is not? Why would there be mice in a worm anyway? And why would no mice being in the nearby Worm be such a notable occurrence that you would feel the need to mention it to someone you just met?
Context doesn't help, as it turns out, because there is no context. There isn't much of anything in the game Leisure Town, and what is there is entirely baffling, just like this conversation I had with the first NPC I met—and Leisure Town was baffling me before I'd even started playing. That's actually the reason I played it.
This is no secret, but since Steam Direct arrived, making it so anyone with $100 can put their game on Steam, there have been a heck of a lot of games put on Steam. Most days I have a scroll through Syama Mishra's Today on Steam twitterbot and stare at the latest offerings. What are all these games? Many don't even look like games. Are they experiments? Art projects? Ripoffs? Trading card scams? How many came from school kids who want to be game developers, and their supportive parents uploaded them to Steam?
Sometimes one game in particular jumps out at me, and few have jumped out more prominently and weirdly than Leisure Town. The store page, which you can see above, fascinated me. "First person game. Let me enter the story." is the entire description. In the trailer, which has no sound, an NPC text-shouts 'I AM MR CUBE' and jumps around on some large ants (the ants, by the way, are the featured screenshot on the store page). Halfway through the trailer, it appears to switch to an entirely different game. The developer, Hubiao, lists themselves as the developer twice for some reason. I found all of this intriguing.
Steam's info box only tells me that it's singleplayer, and states 'Steam is learning about this game.' I can't wait for the mystery to be solved that way. I must learn learn more about Leisure Town, so I pony up my 59 cents (it's 40% off), and enter the story.
In the first-person game, I find the advertised ants, and MR. CUBE (did you know his full name is MrMadCube?) jumps around on them, saying he was promised cookies. I have the worm (sorry, Worm) conversation with an anime clown. I find a boat, and click on it, and I'm told "There is a boat here." There is.
An NPC named Josh complains that he's bored. Another clown tells me a fable about a panda and a pumpkin that I have to read twice because I can't tell what the moral of the story is. I still don't know.
At once point I enter the minigame, called Go Pellet, which is about steering a dot through a maze, but the dot doesn't move. I hit Escape to see if there are controls listed, which closes the game entirely. Side note: I discover the application for Leisure Town is named 123.exe and the configuration window calls it Zigzag. More mysteries!
Even more baffled, I start the game again. Another clown imparts a story about an ox and a dog trying to figure out who is the most important animal on the farm, which is actually not a bad story, though I'm starting to suspect these stories have been copied from another source. I play another game of Go Pellet, and this time the pellet moves, but I can't control it. I get a score of 9.
I hit Escape again, forgetting that closes the entire game.
I restart and keep walking. I find a fourth clown who tells a long story about a cat who catches a fish but lets it go because it's too big to cook, much to the surprise of an inquisitive passing horse. I find a number of houses and walk inside them, but they're all empty, except for one which contains several boats. I click on the boats to see if the game tells me that there are boats here. It does not.
I jump on the ants with Mr. Cube, and he abruptly walks into the water. Ah-ha! Maybe that's what I'm meant to do. To mimic Mr. Cube until he leads me to a magical underwater cookie castle—nope, wait, there's nothing under the water. There's not even water under the water.
I wander around Leisure Town for more long minutes, having the same conversations with the same collection of clowns, looking into empty houses, and trying in vain to play Go Pellet aka Zigzag aka 123. Eventually I give up (technically, I hit Escape forgetting yet again it closes the entire shebang). I still have no idea what Leisure Town is. Maybe an art project, or result of someone learning how to make a game and ultimately deciding it is a game.
As a last ditch effort to understand it, I look on the Steam discussion page and find a comment by someone named 'DBH JohnnyLongDong' that reads simply "what in gods almighty is this." There is no reply. Maybe that's for the best.