Part of being someone who loves video games is coming to understand the visual language of games and how they represent things.
Trouble is, there's no one consistent way that games present themselves, and with independent developers in particular getting more and more experimental all the time, you can't necessarily guarantee that all is as it first appears.
Take a look at this screenshot. You probably think you can work out the sequence of moves you'd need to make to get the little girl Naya from the entrance to the exit, right?
You'd almost certainly be wrong, however, and that's the point of this peculiar new browser-based game from Terry Cavanagh, creator of the infuriating Super Hexagon and the charming gravity-flipping puzzle platformer VVVVVV.
The concept behind Naya's Quest is simple: The world in which Naya lives is shrinking, and she wants to see the edge. So she sets out on a journey, passing through an abandoned town along the way, in which she finds a mysterious device known as a "cross-section scanner."
What the strange device does is allow Naya to see the reality of where she is standing -- which floor tiles are actually in line with where she is standing in both the "X" and "Y" directions of the isometric grid that represents each room of the game. Through using the scanner to challenge your own perceptions of what you think you are seeing in front of you, it's your job to successfully navigate Naya through a series of increasingly perilous environments as she attempts to make her way to the edge of the world.
The isometric perspective seen in Naya's Quest was used relatively frequently in the video games of the '80s and early '90s as a substitute for true 3D graphics, which were very demanding to program on the hardware of the time. This form of forced-perspective projection allowed for objects in a 3D space to be represented on a 2D screen, allowing for the creation of games with surprisingly complex maps that often played with your perception in a similar means to Naya's Quest does -- though generally not to quite the same degree. Some developers even specialized in such games -- one was Rare's predecessor Ultimate Play The Game, whose "Filmation" engine powered a variety of 8-bit computer games such as Knight Lore and Alien 8, the former of which was described by Edge Magazine as "the single greatest advance in the history of computer games."
Naya's Quest marks an interesting return for the isometric perspective -- and the challenges it presented developers in creating convincing 3D environments without confusing the player. By instead deliberately confusing and misleading the player, it causes you to think very carefully about exactly what it is you're seeing in front of you -- and becomes a surprisingly compelling game that demands your full attention as a result.
Give it a try for yourself here -- just don't blame me if you spend the rest of the day with a headache and no depth perception.