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.