I don’t do Game of the Year, but I can do the games I enjoyed the most this year. This is the final of four.

I began adapting The Ouroboros Sequence into a book earlier this year – this seemed like a project I could complete more quickly than The Weapons of Progress. However, Ouroboros was a journey to a destination unknown and attempting to reformulate it as a book cast a harsh light onto some of its gaps. One of these was Stephen’s Sausage Roll (Increpare Games, 2016) a game drizzled with sausage hype yet there were plenty of people who got stuck and downed tools. I had played it twice before but never made great progress, having little success in training the puzzle monkey in my brain to understand its architecture.

But I knew what to do as Ouroboros had delivered a terrible revelation. I needed to start Stephen’s Sausage Roll again from the very beginning, and approach it with a mindful attitude, engaging instead of just trying to finish it. That completionist drive is a terrible mindset for a puzzle game. If you always focus on the horizon, you’ll find yourself tripping over every crack in the broken pavement, every gnarled tree root bursting from the ground.

This project started on August 30 and within two days I had swept through the first two “stages” of Stephen’s Sausage Roll. I was heartened and somewhat amazed that puzzle monkey brain seemed to understand the mechanics so well; I was building from first principles not recalling solutions. My old nemesis, The Great Tower, gave me some pause, but I ploughed through it a second time and I was ready for virgin territory: the third, snowy stage.

Naturally, progress slowed but was constant and my determination never faltered. In time, I made it to the fourth stage and Electron Dance reader Matt W kept submitting ROT13 commentary at me on random threads. I was never alone. Eyes were always watching.

I found Stephen’s Sausage Roll fascinating. The mechanics were, in theory, simple, but full of terrifying nuances that you needed to master to stand a chance of defeating it. I dabbled in Monte Carlo – brute force exploration – at times such as in brainbleed levels like Crunchy Leaves, but mostly I felt like I solved them. It made me feel like a winner.

Then: the fifth stage. It was crawling with puzzles. With so many sausage mechanics now on the table, I suspected Stephen’s Sausage Roll would soon run out of road. The end was nigh.

You absolute fool.

The crucial level, around which the entire game pivots and becomes something else, is an innocuous seemingly-impossible level called Dead End. It contains a secret that is so unexpected and deliriously incredible that I laughed out loud. It’s a bit like “that secret” in The Witness but… more profound in some ways?

Nothing was ever the same again after that. Sure, I finished the game. But nothing was ever the same again after that.

Stephen’s Sausage Roll is available from Steam or Humble for PC, Mac or Linux.

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4 thoughts on “Twilight’s Last Gaming 2019/4: Stephen’s Sausage Roll

  1. I found out about this game half a year ago, played through the first levels and thought it was nothing special (aside from especially hard, which wasn’t enough to interest me). After reading what you had to say about it, and a few beloved designers saying it’s the best game ever, I had to try again. Beat “Dead End” yesterday. I also laughed out loud.

    This game is a design masterclass. I’d say that instead of adding new mechanics and working through their permutations, it tiptoes and wriggles around itself, producing moments of hysteria. And isn’t it incredible that I knew precisely what you meant when talking about the solution to “Crater”, even though you didn’t say much?

    Stephen Lavelle is a genius whose work hasn’t been appreciated enough. In fact I’m kinda disappointed that, much like Starseed Pilgrim, very few spoke about this game. I don’t know what this means for games/gamers.

    So that would be another reason why you have to make The Five Stages of Stephen’s Sausage Roll. The main one being that it’d be completely hilarious.

  2. Hey roman! I was also being told to “play it” but no-one was ever quite convincing enough to get me off my butt and play it. I, like you, pottered around with the first and second areas, but it doesn’t quite come into it’s own until you’re plunging through the third zone. It is exquisite. I will remember what the solution to “Crater” needs to my dying day. And, of course, after Dead End, the structure of the game is not quite the same. Glad I encouraged someone else to give it another go… so much more beneath the surface.

    I definitely want to do a Five Stages video. It got drafted but the script needs a lot of editing.

  3. Glad to see you enjoyed the game as much as I did.

    I also gave up and came back over a year later, though I originally gave up on the winter world.

    The twist is honestly one of the best in any game I have played, and the main reason this game has dislodged English Country Tune as my favorite Increpare game. I still recommend ECT if you haven’t played it, though it is easier and shorter than SSR.

    However, I must admit I as a little disappointed with the post-twist puzzles. I feel like they were easier than many of the pre-twist puzzles, and some of them were open to brute forcing. On the one hand, that meant I actually finished the game instead of getting stuck again. On the other hand, I still wish there were a few more levels that pushed the puzzling even further.

  4. Hi Sandy. I do have a copy of ECT, but only really gave it the briefest of plays, years ago!

    I don’t know if I share your disappointment. The one thing I found less appealing is that exploration was limited and I couldn’t figure “how far” to go until the end of the game. I understand why it was like that, of course. But the content was gated heavily all of a sudden – you were having had to finish two levels (usually) to be able to see the next set up ahead. And it seemed to keep going on.

    I still got stuck on a few levels, though. The Backbone was a real blocker!

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