Platform: PC (Steam, itch.io, Humble Store)
Developer: Chris Johnson, Chris Larkin
Publisher: Chris Johnson, Chris Larkin
Release date: September 30th 2015
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Expand is a meditative puzzle game. You play as a square in a constantly mutating labyrinth as you attempt to elude and traverse the various obstacles you’re presented with. The controls are simple, the game is short and failure can be easily remedied with another attempt. Once you’ve grasped the concept of the game, there’s not much more to it- but I do not mean to say this to be dismissive. Expand is the best, or perhaps the purest, example I can think of in terms of the thing is attempts to be. Or, perhaps, the thing I wanted it to be.
Do not, however, play it with PC controls. You move around in circles which the strict ”up”, ”down”, ”left” and ”right” keys do not have the appropriate level of nuance for.
I often look for games with game-play that requires little, or not, tutorializing. Something you can jump into. As well as something with no plot, characters or grand world-building. That’s not to say that I can’t appreciate dense RPGs or plot-driven adventure games; in fact, games in those genres tend to be my favourite. They’re the ones I dwell on- because there’s a narrative to latch onto. Expand isn’t a game that’s going to keep my mind turning late into the night.
In the moment, however, it can lull you into a peaceful, trance-like state. I never got frustrated by the game-play, which I found no technical faults in- this I find to be rare in an indie, budget title such as this. The puzzles take the same basic components and expound from those into hundreds of variations. There’s a mix of reacting and learning a pattern. When you fail a section, the level will flip, meaning you’ll be approaching the section from a different angle. The slight variety made failure more palatable. The task felt like more than simple memorization.
If you’re looking to have your mind cleared and for some peace, Expand is fairly perfect. It won’t last you too long- just a few hours or perhaps less. Still, this is a game you play for the activity, for the feeling of playing it. Replaying it does not feel completely repetitive because of the game’s constantly shifting, changing nature.
If you can stand being alone with your own thoughts (I tend to play games like this with a podcast or audiobook in the background), Expand has a fitting, tranquil soundtrack. Moreover, I was surprised by the sense of scale and grandeur that such a minimalistic game managed to communicate.
Expand, I feel, will be something I pick up again when I’m in search of some peace of mind.
- I could play this game forever,
- I can’t fault my experience with it.
- I felt like I’m now a more patient person, for having played the game.
- Isn’t actually a hundred hours long. People looking for hours of game-play may be disappointed as beginning to end it’s only a few hours long.
- If you manage to play this with PC controls without bursting into tears, please tell me your secret.
- Can be disorienting for the motion-sensitive considering the tendency of the levels to morph.
Unless your child is afraid of shapes or the colours red, black and white… I don’t think there’s going to be a problem.
Code provided by publisher/ developer.