Everyday Shooter

by Darius Kazemi on May 18, 2008

in Everyday Shooter

Jon Mak’s Everyday Shooter is the greatest game I have played in a very long time. It’s too soon to tell, but it may end up in my short list of “top 5 favorite games of all time.” I’ve been playing the game, well, every day since it was released on Steam about 9 days ago. And I’ve been itching to write an article explaining how important this game is to me for almost that entire time. This is my attempt at expressing that feeling.

Odd Reverberations

I get the music from ES stuck in my head all the time. This isn’t that weird for a video game… except that ES’s music is generative based on how you play the game. Have you ever had a nondeterministic piece of music stuck in your head? If you listen to modern composers like Steve Reich, you probably have. Let me tell you, it’s a strange, synaesthetic experience.

So I’ll have the general chord progression of a song like the opening level, “Robot,” going through my head. And then I’ll imagine the embellishments coming in: the individual guitar plucks and licks. But when I imagine the sound it’s coupled to the image of the enemy ships exploding away in a sheen of light. My brain can’t recall the sound without recalling the light. This is marvelous and exhilarating: no game has ever done this to me before.

Lush Look Killer

The third level of Everyday Shooter is called “Lush Look Killer.” It’s pretty damned hard, especially at first. Here’s the level:

You’ll notice that as you first enter the level, this creepy eye right in the center is closed, and then… robots start to exit the eye, and walk back into it, growing the eye. I played the first minute of the level probably a dozen times before understanding it enough to continue. Here’s how it went, where each bullet point is something new I learned on each playthrough:

  • OMG WTF eyeballs and robots?
  • Okay, if I kill the flashing robot it acts like a smartbomb, killing all the other robots.
  • Huh, the robots grow the eyeball as they return back to it.
  • Oh crap, the more the eyeball grows the more robots it sends out! I’d better take advantage of those big flashing robots to keep from being overrun with more.
  • Wait, the robots aren’t really attacking me. Can I just wait over here and let the eyeball grow? Okay, the eyeball’s gigantic. It’s opening up… crap now there’s a million tiny eyeballs! (Dies)
  • Alright, this time I’ll keep the eyeball small. Hey look, this time there are fewer tiny eyeballs. I guess the bigger the main eyeball, the more small eyeballs spawn.
  • Wait, some of these eyeballs are being transformed by the big eyeball into homing eyeballs! And there are these other eyeballs with force fields around them?
  • Ah, I can slowly grow the force field eyes so their field gets bigger and bigger by shooting them, but not to fast or they’ll pop. But when they do pop, they take out all enemies in their field!
  • Hey, not only do they take out enemies, but they send out homing missiles and it appears that there are more missiles the bigger I grow the field before popping it.
  • …hey, I can make the big eyeball smaller by shooting it directly.

This is information that I picked up just playing the first minute over and over. In a song that is structured basically verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse2-chorus2-verse2-chorus2, the above information covers pretty much just the first verse-chorus, followed by game over, followed by my playing again. This an extremely information-rich game and greatly rewards you for successful pattern recognition. I didn’t mind dying so many times because each time I felt like I had learned something new.

Oh, and of course the level design superbly follows the tone of the music. The verse is funky, yet almost plodding, suggesting the march of the robots and the fact that you’re not really in any danger. Yet it’s ominous: that eyeball is going to open up sometime, and distant distortion gets louder as you approach that moment. And when it does, you hit the chorus: roomy, powerful guitar strumming and utter chaos as you’re inundated with creepy eyeballs. I could go on about the rest of the level but you get the idea, and of course you can watch the video to get an even better idea.

Incidentally, there’s a nice progression of zone-of-safety in the first three levels: in “Robot,” the edges are dangerous and the middle is safe. In “Root of the Heart” the edges are your safe zone, all the danger is in the middle. In “Lush Look Killer” the edges and the middle are dangerous: you have to basically circle strafe the eyeball while avoiding the edges. Come to think of it, “Porco in the Sky” ups the ante and gives you two targets to circle strafe right off the bat. It’s a nice little progression and reinforces the idea of game-as-album.


I’ve written a lot here, but I still don’t know: why do I keep playing this game? I guess I’ll think about it and post some more later.


Ian Schreiber May 19, 2008 at 9:10 pm

The way the music is put together (fixed background + user-generated sound from shooting stuff + flashes of light) reminds me of Rez. You even describe ES as synaesthetic.

Did you play Rez? Did you like it a lot? Is that perhaps linked to the reason why you like ES? You might find some answers in the comparison.

And then download and play the IGF game Synaesthete (if you haven’t already) for more comparison…

Darius Kazemi May 19, 2008 at 9:50 pm

I’ve never played Rez, sadly. Once I get a 360 I’ll buy it on XBLA…

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: