Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory be to the sausage king.” Oh yea, I have completed Stephen’s Sausage Roll.

I renewed my attack on the Sausage game for the Ouroboros-spinoff book I am working on. I knew I was missing something important and needed to address it. It is likely I’ll dedicate a new essay in this book to Stephen’s Sausage Roll but I thought it would nice to have a comment thread on it first.

These comments will be sausages all the way down and completely naked. There will be no ROT13 here.

I mean, if you like playing puzzles and you’re wondering whether to play Stephen’s Sausage Roll, here’s my capsule review:

  • What a rush

If you want some detail, rando who is planning to play Stephen’s Sausage Roll:

  • Be prepared for the occasional bottleneck, particularly The Great Tower
  • Do not judge a book by its first world, you’re really playing for what the game becomes
  • It is a hard game but in a satisfying way
  • There are a handful of what feel like Monte Carlo levels (e.g. Wobblecliff) but generally you think the levels out, not guess
  • Do not read this thread or go looking for spoilers, because someone will spoil Dead End
  • You do not spoil Dead End
  • No, you really do not

Anyway, I think it’s time to hand over to the comments.

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6 thoughts on “Discussion: Sausage Souls

  1. So, Matt, in response to your notes in the Behind the Poster. First, yeah, I can see the ‘problem’ with Wobblecliff is you just don’t have any experience with this kind of problem before now. The mental architecture is just not there and it’s hard work trying to make sense of all the moving parts. There was something a little too Rube Goldberg about it for my liking because my assumptions about the solution were skewered by the accidental solution I stumbled upon. These were intelligent stumbles but I was far from comprehension.

    I concur that God Pillar wasn’t difficult – it’s an ideal last level in some circumstances. A boss level is not necessarily a way to go out, but a celebration of the player’s ingenuity in reaching this point. I was blown away by how long it took me to get back to the start. Jesus – I went on a real journey.

  2. In case any rando got here who hasn’t played the game yet. REALLY. JOEL MEANS IT. YOU DO NOT SPOIL DEAD END.

    Too right about boss levels–or end levels, anyway–and something games don’t always get–it’s not too satisfying to be punched real hard in the face at the end. (Yes, I am still a little bitter about flag 3 in Celeste.) The other thing about God Pillar, besides not being so hard and moving the focus from the sausages to the structures, is its ritual character. Piling the second or third structure onto the pillar is a bit of a challenge, perhaps. Piling the ninth structure on means doing exactly the same thing several times in a row. There are some levels where you have to do something like that–some in the end sequence where you have to swap out sausages to grill them in the exact same way, and some on the second island I think where you have to block one sausage with another and then swap them to block the second with the first–and then there’s my awful solution to Crunchy Leaves. But God Pillar is the first time where it’s completely gratuitous. In all the other levels that happens because you’ve been using one of the sausages for something and you have to grill it (or a sausage is an obstacle and the one you grill and the obstacle switch places). And this adds to the feel of weight, of doing something final at the end of something monumental. Which of course is earned because you have done something monumental.

    So the story! I remember saying something to you about the story approximately when you were stuck on The Great Tower the first time and naturally you were like “what.” Besides being a climate change game–this is obvious, it’s strange to me that this isn’t more discussed–it’s also about games, no wait come back. We mourn not the dead but the knowledge that left the world with them, the living carry the weight of the dead and the dead leave a gift for the living; the knowledge here is the knowledge of how to solve the puzzle, and we honor (and bury) the dead by rediscovering what they knew. Which is a difference between the loneliness of the score attack game, when you’re in uncharted territory and there’s no guarantee that there’s any way out of the hole you’ve dug, and the dialogue with the dead of the bespoke puzzle game, where the designer has left something behind for you to do but what you have to do is discovery, not invention of something new. I guess I’ve already written this paragraph?

    This is perhaps an invidious comparison but the writing makes me think about how I never need to read another word of Jonathan Blow’s prose again. “In dreams there is hope” is five one-syllable words and in context so much more devastating than all the blather in Braid. (Partly I think of this because of this comment about an ancient Lavelle game. I wanted to say, “But Lavelle’s twaddle is so much better!”)

  3. Yeah, the final boss being a rock hard challenge is something a lot of games could do without. I’m not sure the association is that strong, but it feels very action film-ic, that you have to end on a desperate battle otherwise your movie has no good end. Half-Life 2 famously bucked this trend – to some protest.

    You should have seen my first attempt to solve God Pillar. It was horrific. I was using the one vertical sausage in the North side of the tables which is really difficult without losing tables you against the tower to the north. Hideous. I had a mess of tables and I wasn’t sure if it was working out at all. On my second attempt, I tried again without sausages and ta da it was really straightforward.

    YouTuber Joseph Anderson hates this final level because it makes you do something repetitive and is really annoying. But I think your description of it as “ritual” is so on the money that I’d suspect you were now a millionaire.

    That enormous walk back though – incredible stuff. The long lonely journey across an empty land. Brilliant.

    I’m going to have hold back from discussing story. Truth is I played so slowly I forgot much of the narrative! Let me come back to you on this.

  4. Hmm, so I’ve been reviewing the story and what you wrote, Matt.

    So on the more clearer idea: that this is a “climate change” game. I can see the possibility in the text – rising waters, resources running out due to this rising tide overrunning the land. The only fly in the ointment of a climate change reading is that talks about the people being wise and never once talks about how it was their own folly that their world was over. It is an “inevitable death”. Also, while they talk about controlling the waters, it starts off with “the ground they stood on began to give way”. Visually, we see the ground collapsing rather than water rising in the game, although this may simply be an abstract depiction or the camera is held relative to the water.

    A strong theme is the fear of being the final ones alive – you are have no funeral, no memorial. It seems the player is not the last of the wise people but someone who has stumbled upon the long-dead “island of wisdom” (it is already in ruins and the player clearly arrives by a boat, now shipwrecked). The player seems to be completing a ritual of honouring the final dead. “People dreamed that in the future, somebody would come and lay them all to rest.” Although I do wonder if the one sausage at the top of the God Pillar could have functioned as “the last person to die”, marooned high atop a massive tower.

    But are you just the ghost of the final one to die? “A ghost isn’t a dead person with unfinished business – it is a living person carrying the weight of the dead.” I find this line particularly perplexing. Especially when the waters take you and the island one last time and you emerge as “a sausage”, which seems a particularly cruel reward if you’re not a ghost but a living person.

    I do wrestle with some of these lines. I’m not sure I’m really feeling the videogame/design/puzzle angle but it certainly wants to think about being remembered after death.

  5. Here is a seriously necro’ed comment about some general mechanics in Stephen’s Sausage Roll. Doo doo doo spoiler space for the Recent Comments Sidebar and whatnot.

    So, a common thing in puzzle games is having a level that teaches you a trick and then you exploit the trick in multifarious ways later on. You have Level X, then you have Level X with a twist. There’s this notorious bottleneck level in English Country Tune which is like this–you have to work out a mechanic which is absolutely essential for a lot of later puzzles, and that’s the whole level. (gur h-funcrq yriry va Y&J jurer lbh unir gb hfr n junyr gb ahqtr n ynein fb vg snyyf va gur evtug qverpgvba, vafgrnq bs ahqtvat vg lbhefrys.)

    SSR has the reputation of doing this which is not quite true–elsewhere in the comments I think I talked about how the right half of Curious Dragons uses a formation like Cold Ladder, the Twisty Farm trick gets reused with a twist in one part of Apex (though it’s a little remarkable how little it gets used elsewhere), Sea Dragons is definitely about teaching you a simple trick that’s ubiquitous in the current levels, Infant’s Break is absolutely about how these two ubiquitous grill configurations can be used to cook a sausage, there are Folklore-with-a-twist levels like Lover’s Sadness and Obscene Gesture.

    But! It’s remarkable how much Lavelle resists the temptation to throw all the mechanics into one level. (Again, contrast with English Country Tune, where the last two worlds are called “Freestyle” and mix things willy-nilly.) I’m almost positive that, after the island which is all about dropping the fork (except Land’s End, what’s up with that level), you never drop the fork again. And in that island, I don’t think you ever have to put a sausage on your head.., though there’s a few where you have to or can put the fork on your head, and one where the intended solution involves doing that to flip the orientation of the fork, so hmm. And then I think there’s only one level in the final sequence where you have to put a sausage on your head (Apex), plus several interstitial bits. But still, there was a decided lack of “here’s everything at once” levels. Which was good.

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