Small Worlds

By: Paul Eres

On: October 27th, 2009

Small Worlds is an exploration game in which, as you explore, the world gradually zooms out and is revealed. It is quite short and charming, even though there’s no enemies, upgrades, collectibles, or actions besides moving and jumping.

For those too tired to play through it, here’s Ortoslon’s playthrough (warning, spoilers).

  • Ryan

    Very nice. Has a bitter-sweet feel to it.

  • SirNiko

    This one, I think, is absolutely fantastic. The worlds are beautiful, and very detailed. The game is short, and that’s really the only possible complaint I could make.

    This is the correct way to make an art game.


  • Dusty Spur

    I think any game with an exploration element could take a cue from this game. Everything feels so seamless and connected (as far as in each contained world, I mean), which has a lot to do with the zooming out so you can see it all at once. Really fantastic, imo.

  • anothergol

    This game is better than what the screenshot hints, even though the controls are frustrating, the atmosphere is pretty cool. Try it even just for the music.

  • C. Caleb

    I detect the welcome influence of Invisible Cities, which was a key inspiration for Braid as well.

  • zach

    As a game game, I wanted more. Or rather, I wanted to stay in this world much, much longer.

    As an art game, it really … yeah. It is.

    The extremely zoomed pixels in the beginning of each part reminded me of Jason Rohrer, which is about as good a compliment as I can give.

    Since the length (or lack thereof) doesn’t really hinder the execution of the game in any way, the only point leaving me a bit miffed was the music.
    It is decent, and fits with each part, but nothing really noteworthy in my opinion.

    Yeah yeah, I know what you want to say. But as pieces of art, games should take advantage of every bit the media allows – to really reel in those wishing to experience the game alone and entirely.

    On a final note, I find the visual frame for the game (ArmorGames) terribly disturbing, and think it a complete and utter shame that you can’t either play it with black borders, or fullscreen.

  • anothergol

    Edit: I see the (jumping) control was fixed since the last time I played it. So it’s all good.

  • Laremere

    Short, fun, and very worth it. Each world has its own unique style that works very well, and it is very fun to explore and discover what lies beyond.

  • mots

    great experience, the art is minimalistic and pixelized but the style works extremely well with the enchanting music…

    somehow it reminded me of the dig

  • Anthony Flack

    Strangely compelling.

  • Davioware

    Very good game. Was anyone else reminded of minecraft? The music and blockyness felt very minecrafty imo.

  • Winterous

    Played it, didn’t like it, except the fucked-up alien organ world thing.
    That one looked cool.

    Yeah it was well drawn and made, and had good music, but I just didn’t enjoy it.

  • Eddie

    Ah, the retro-ness of the game compels me.

  • xot

    This is an oddly pleasing diversion. It’s well crafted and I find it truly eye opening from a design perspective.

    On the surface, it illustrates the alluring power of atmosphere and simple exploration. I think that it is the designer’s challenge to the player to use his imagination that makes this most interesting.

    But it also cleverly blurs the lines between gameplay and graphics, and between goals and rewards. It forces us to question what we truly value from these design elements. The interplay between these four simple but deftly executed features results in an surprisingly engaging experience.

  • undertech

    I liked it. It was enjoyable to play with the spacebar held down. That’s what I liked the most about it. And the music was tops for the atmosphere.

    3 thumbs up.

  • !CE-9

    In short, it made me feel the love that can make one a happy person. Not a lot of games I’ve recently played could pull this off. @zach and @xot seconded, I didn’t care much about collecting the *spoilers* rather than prolonging my stay in these worlds until there was nothing else that I haven’t seen.

    Small Worlds very cleverly crafted. I loved to see the worlds unfold and the snowy world and the transition from its initial peace to the showing up of the *spoiler* and the *spoilers* is a memorable video game experience.

    While we’re at mentioning Braid — why couldn’t it had the soundtrack that Small Worlds does? these tracks (I haven’t checked if they’re from Magnatune or not, but they have this kind of quality about them) are up there with the best video game soundtracks I’ve ever heard.

  • Corkscrew

    The levels are pretty depressing once you discover the whole of them. The snowy one and the city one especially.
    A very amazing game.

  • SteGriff

    That was epic.

  • raigan

    I think the description is somewhat remiss in failing to point out the TERRIBLE FUCKING CONTROLS. The game is amazing, but it’s burdened with needlessly awful and awkward movement.

    Any game that requires precision jumps, but demands that you press jump THEN left/right, is stupid.

    Other than that it’s awesome.. but it’s really hard to look past the movement/controls when that’s basically the entire game.

  • Pierre B.

    What’s not to love about this game? It works on so many levels (ah!). From the world design that cleverly makes you discover the backstory through detours (which, in a bigger game would be annoying but works nicely in such small worlds) to the music, and the interconnectedness.

    A very interesting way to tell a story. On small sound for man, one loud noise for humanity. :)

  • Thomas K.

    This game was great. If there was a downloadable Windows version I’d get it for sure. (Flash is ok, just not my favorite.)

    The first room I cleared was the “waterfall” one. Once I saw what was going on I realized this game was for real. Very touching and very moving.

    “For those too tired to play it…”

    Mini-rant: Really? That one sentence is enough to turn off a million little mindless “TLDR” kiddie clones who really are the kinds of people who need to take the time to open their minds anyway. Sorry, it’s just that the TLDR mentality is one of my biggest petpeeves.

  • Ilya Chentsov

    Hey guys, what was that backstory you discovered? I don’t think what I saw makes for a coherent storyline.

  • Paul Eres

    there’s a difference between a backstory and a storyline (plot) — one example is the city and the green stuff

    and the ‘too tired’ line was there just to link to the playthrough video, it was intended so that those who were unimpressed by the idea or screenshot might take a look at the video and be convinced that it’s worth playing

  • Skofo

    I like how he made an old-school feel not only through the primitive graphical style, but also through the sudden and short ending.

  • Codemonkey

    I think I’m missing something.

  • Stephen

    I think it’s disappointing that you chose that particular world for the screenshot. My personal opinion, and the general consensus on the game’s competition page, is that the “monster” world is of out of place, doesn’t really fit with the game’s theme, and the least interesting.

    Love this game, though. Should definitely win the JiG/AG competition.

  • Paul Eres

    tigsource comments: when they can’t criticize the game, they criticize the write-up :D

  • Pirate

    This game was great, played it twice, left me wanting moar :{

  • Nick Retallack

    This game is fantastic. When I began to play it, I immediately knew this is my kind of game. The textured pixels make it nice to look at even when it’s extremely zoomed in, and the full views you arrive at from exploring are quite stunning.

    I especially like the snowy level, which just feels magical, until you see what’s beneath it.

    My biggest disappointment was the ending. It’s so dark. I would have passed this on to all my friends if only it didn’t end so negatively. Seriously, what was the point of that?

  • JoeHonkie

    That was neat! Very pretty and a great little exploration thing. Reminds me of all that I loved about Knytt.

  • KaL

    Yes the ending seems…at ends with the game so much build up for what feels like the conclusion is just a *THE END* – maybe this is a comment on atheism and the afterlife as there’s this sort of purgatory/emptiness theme running in the game but maybe that’s giving it too much credit.

    Didn’t like the ending.

  • Alex

    Great game, very nice graphics and very well designed maps!

    Short and simple, but with a solid idea to back it up, simply great.

  • Ezuku

    Really enjoyed it. This is how “games as art” should work, where they don’t need to openly declare themselves as such (just encase nobody realises)

  • cm

    Finally, an art game that is more art than wank. And I say this as someone who *likes* art games.

  • cm

    Also, I clicked on the video because I was indeed “too tired” to play the game, then stopped halfway through and thought “fuck it, this is clearly better played than watched” and played the damn thing. Good thing it was Flash though, otherwise I might not have overcome my inertia. Anyway I’m very glad I played it.

  • Harbinger

    Fantastic feeling and style.

  • raigan

    I really can’t believe that everyone is overlooking how stilded, awkward, and crippledly god-awful the movement was.

    Seriously.. there are precision jumps, and the only way to perform them is to jump straight up, THEN move left/right!! That’s just inexplicably stupid and wrong.

    If you took this game and added smooth non-tile-sized movement (like Knytt, for instance.. without all the wall-climbing), it would be amazing.

    As it is, you can see how brilliant it *would* be, which only makes the current horribly-annoying-movement problems all the more annoying.

  • Jayce

    raigan, that movement error was fixed.

  • raigan


  • Epim_

    I played it a bit the other day, then it reminded me getting rid of stains and I stopped playing. I gave it a go later, the falls scene was worth playing it.

  • MasterShake


    Anybody got any ideas as to how the alien corpse fits into all of this? This could’ve very well been just a beatnik-inspired, anti-war, tree hugging type charade, but I feel like there’s more to it.

    And also the fact that the character is on some battered space station…

  • Izaak

    One of the things I like best about rpgs are the overworld maps that keep expanding whenever you explore. This game fills that longing I have for such an experience.

  • wolfkin

    an absolutely wicked awesome experience. I see some people say it was short but i feel that doesn’t detract from the experience. I guess I came in after some sort of jumping bug because it played flawlessly for me. I have just enough understanding of game design to appreciate how much effort was required to sculpt these worlds that look good and play well. I was also reading some comments about level editor and UGC but not every game needs user generated content and in this case it would greatly detract from the game’s experience.

    I don’t know anything about this contest or whatever but bravo on this excellent entry unless it’s a contest for fighting games I fail to see how this is anything less than an exemplary example.