Thursday, January 08, 2009


Pregnancy and survival horror - together at last? Coil is a game about pregnancy, violation, and horrible user interfaces. It's from Edmund McMillen, the controversial creator of Gish, Aether and C*nt, among others.

Coil tells its story in much the same way as Braid. The game is broken down into a handful of short stages, each of which is preceded by a snippet of emotive prose. Every stage has different gameplay and is themed around an aspect of pregnancy, from the fertilisation of an egg through to the growth of a foetus. A dark and horrific tone is applied to the proceedings throughout, and you're warned that some readers may find the game offensive or disturbing.

The chief innovation is that the game is controlled entirely through the movement of the mouse. You don't need to hit keys or click buttons - simple mouse movements are all you need to progress. Although the movements are very graceful once you've worked them out, deciphering them in the first place can be a nun-punchingly frustrating task. The user interface is, to put it bluntly, horrid.

As an example, the bits of text presented between levels look a lot like what we've been conditioned to see as a loading screen. It can take a lot of waiting to realise that the only way to progress is to move the mouse cursor in wide circles. You can do this by accident, allowing you to get past a couple of these transitions without realising it was your own agency that prompted the change.

To be fair, this appears to be a deliberate design decision. Coil bills itself as "a game without instruction or clear direction", which to me was initially interesting but upon reflection is probably as bad an idea as it sounds.

Like most of McMillen's games, Coil looks gorgeous. The subdued colours and elegant animations present a soothing contrast to the unsettling themes. And if the gameplay is, on the whole, a bit rubbish, you can at least be thankful that the experience is short and focused.

Coil is a finalist in the 2009 Independent Games Festival and is worth seeing whether you like it or loathe it. It's available through Armor Games and Kongregate and I urge you to go check it out now.


Edmund said...

Hey Edmund here, just wanted to say you hit the nail on the head.. it was a bit frustrating to see Coil making ti into the finals over my other game Aether, a game where i addressed all the flaws i ran into with coil.. but i gotta take what i can get.

thats what i get for entering a few of my games thinking it would maximize my chance in getting in.. then having a game i felt was flawed make it to the finals, judges...

Greg Tannahill said...

Oh wow, hey dude.

Personally I was surprised to see Coil make it in over Aether, and to see none of your games at all represented in the "Visual" section, even given such excellent competition in that category. (I have a lot of nice things to say about Aether, if I ever get round to doing that post.)

Keep doing what you do; your stuff is always worth talking about even when it's got problems, and unique stuff like this is why I bother browsing Flash portals at all. Best of luck in the IGF and beyond.

Anonymous said...

on an unrelated note, you may not be able to use a machine in person, but on the internet, anything is possible and in fact should be attempted at least once!

-Juri <3

Greg Tannahill said...

For my own future reference Juri is referring above to this story on Kotaku, which I drew to her attention.

Because otherwise when I read this again in a month I'm going to have NO idea what she's talking about.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. I hate Coil with a passion. It's just a bad (well, I loathe to call it a videogame) art project that makes too many gameplay compromises for the art aesthetic.