Coil


At my first attempt at this game, I couldn’t get past the second level. Now I’m a pro and I’ve become a big fan of coil. I like the fact that it takes you through an emotional rollercoaster and combines fun, playful mini-games with sometimes grim peaces of text. It’s definitely an interesting contester for the innovation award at the IGF 2009.

This game is structured with story fragments and mini-games. While playing the part of the foetus in the mini-games, you read about the experiences of the ‘mother’ in the story sections (click on the image below to read an example). The gameplay is actually pretty fun, intuitive and nice. Yet the story and the music create a sense of loneliness and sadness combined with a bit of anger, like there was some grave injustice done to the protagonist. Some players call it a story of rape, I don’t view it that way, since it didn’t seem that violent to me. I felt more like a voyeur in the evolution of this little creature, while I received fragments of what its mom’s feelings during the pregnancy.

The following remark by Edmund McMillen (one of its designers) about Coil explains a lot about the game:

My First “art game” and follow up to Triachnid. Coil was inspired by the death of my father and my mother taking care of my terminally ill grandmother, i wanted to make something that expressed how i felt about life and death and my views on the meaning of life. I dont think many people understood what i was saying, but in a lot of ways neither did i. Seeing how people interpreted Coil was very inspiring and opened my eyes to how important the conversation i was having with my audience was.

It’s an experimental game about his feelings surrounding his personal life at that time and I really think it shows. It tapped into my own emotions and played around with them. In a very different way from The Graveyard. I was pleasantly surprised by the impact of coil.

The graphics are sometimes dark in colour, but they’re never grim and they give a very playful, fun image of this strange foetus that you’re developing. The music adds to this and the mood of the game almost gets an alien feel to it. The gameplay is very simple, easy and intuitive. The only thing you need to use is the mouse and in pretty much each of the six levels you have to make a circular motion, just like you have to do to get past the story fragments.

The levels are very well-designed. I especially like the squid-level (level 3, the image above) where you have to move your tentacle around the food in order for your foetus to grow and reach the next stage. Some levels were a bit more trickier to get and I still don’t understand the other levels. For instance, in every level you are the only foetus. Yet in one level (level 5, the image below), you have to ‘battle’ another foetus with little arrows. It makes no sense to me! Similar to the last level, where you’re flying above the water.

Coil also touches upon some issues with the avatar, that I wrote about in my post on the Graveyard. Since you can ‘stimulate’ – I wouldn’t call it ‘control’ – the avatar using circular motions, it almost feels like you don’t control the avatar at all and this creates a distance. For a flash game to have such intuitive gameplay and emotional depth, I really think it deserves the nomination for the innovation award.

You can play Coil on Komix Games and find out more about its designer at edmundm.com.

For an overview of my articles on the IGF 2009 go here.

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  • Comments (2)
  1. i love you :) thanks for that kind and honest review.

  2. Thanks Edmund, I really loved it!

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