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From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Eric Zimmerman



Copyright 2002, Eric Zimmerman

An interesting action game, Strain is an artificial-life inspired game developed by Eric Zimmerman with Peter Berry, John Sharp, and Patrick Heilman. The official blurb: “[using] the keyboard as a physical object (rather than as a linguistic device), the Strain player interacts with an on-screen ecosystem to eliminate a virus.”

The actual gameplay is simpler than it sounds, but it is still strangely addictive. Basically, the “ecosystem” presented is a 2D grid that resembles your keyboard, where each key is mapped to the a cell of the same relative location on screen. Pressing any key on your keyboard “highlights” a corresponding cell and the 8 cells that surround it – this highlight kills all virii (tiny blobs less than 1×1 cell in size) that happen to be hoving above those 9 highlighted cells. Your job is to press different keys rapidly and accurately to make the virus disappear. This is not as easy as it sounds, because if you hit the same key again before the red highlight goes back to normal, the cells will change color and will repel virii instead of killing them. In addition, there are dozens of virii at any one time, with new ones popping up at random all the time, making the game virtually interminable (unless you are a a very good action gamer).

With a unique concept, strange but weirdly pleasant sound effects, and zany gameplay, Strain is one of those deceptively simple game that will subconsciously keep you coming back for more. If you enjoy weird action games or something unique to while away the coffee break, this underdog will do nicely. Two thumbs up!

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