I have a preternatural fear of hitting the F-row of keys on any keyboard in the middle of a game. Or capslock. Or the tilde. Especially ESC, but that’s way up in the northwest corner. Still, it can and does happen. I’m a clumsy person.
Keyboard Sports (opens in new tab) wants you to use those keys. It wants you to slap them with your open hand in combination with every other key you can reach. Seriously, do it, otherwise you’re going to get run over by a car.
Developed by Triband, a small team out of Cophenhagen, Keyboard Sports is a series of cute, challenging, and perplexing vignettes that require use of nearly every key on the keyboard to move a small character around the screen to dodge obstacles or perform feats of sport. For each game, the play area is overlaid by a transparent grid sectioned off according to your keyboard layout. If I press the A key, the little dude will scurry to that part of the play area. If I press backspace, he’ll run there.
It starts simple enough by placing the player in the middle of a busy road. You’re sent to buy some “T” (that you drink by pressing the same key) at the local grocery store, but it’s not open, so why not flail around in traffic until then? Cars speed towards the screen in random arrangements, and you need to guide the character around by pressing keys where cars aren’t about to zoom by. It requires a surprising amount of precision and good timing, because if you press one or two keys too far one way or the other, he’ll be roadkill.
After getting the T and drinking it, I press the spacebar to “space” out and play through some psychedelic vignettes. With every key press, I made a copy of myself. It got weird.
Soon, I’m running around on the wings of a plane, desperately trying to knock off all the extra cargo in a silly physics game. But the plane explodes anyway, so I skydive, pressing keys to dodge debris as a fall towards the earth.
And then I’m making my way towards an ancient temple in a platforming challenge, trailing my finger along the keyboard to follow a thin, winding trail over a lava-filled pit as certain platforms rise and fall in rhythm.
It ends with me firing a crossbow at a horde of enemies attacking from all sides. I move like normal, but hold one key down to stay in position, then any other key to fire in that direction. It breaks my brain a bit. I’m told it gets far more complex. Like, using-four-fingers-to-move-a-quadrupedal-character complex. Hoo boy.
At first, I started by placing my hands on the homerow, like I was ready to type out this very preview. By the end of the demo, I was trailing a single finger across the keyboard to lead my little man a bit more directly, treating the keyboard like I might treat a touchscreen, pointing and dragging my finger along a bumpy input road. But the awkward controls are part of the charm, and they’re only awkward because I’d never treated a keyboard as anything besides a WASD and work machine.
Keyboard Sports is the first time I’ve played a game that maps my keyboard directly to the screen, treating the two rectangles as one whole. In that way, it feels like a knock to the head of PC games, a reminder to quit ignoring all that blank space and use the whole canvas.
Keyboard Sports is set to release sometime this year.