How long has it been since you played a text based adventure game? Go East. Pick Up Shoe. Look at Bug. Hit Bug with Shoe. If that’s something that brings you a surge of nostalgia – or interest – there may be a game on the horizon for you.
[I] Doesn’t Exist is currently in early stages – the alpha is available to demo on Steam and a Kickstarter is ongoing – but so far this has promise. Control your character with basic phrases by typing into a DOS- looking interface and complete puzzles. Unlike the old games though this has a visual representation of what’s going on with pixel art above the text, and a procedurally generated lo-fi soundtrack.
The developers (LUAL Games, two game design graduates from Switzerland), use an AI to interpret commands; the player doesn’t have to learn the exact phrasing of commands as the AI is learning that ‘pick up’ is the same as ‘collect’, ‘take’ and ‘get’. Whether this takes away some of the challenge of the game, or removes a source of frustration will be down to your point of view and gaming preferences. It does mean that to play the demo you need an active internet connection; part of training the AI. LUAL states they would like an offline version to be available, but it’s not clear when that’s likely to happen, and if that will be available for the release that is currently estimated in August 2023.
The demo is the entirety of one of the three acts of the game – at first that implied to me that the game would be quite short, but hints given about the second act show a more branching story with multiple routes instead of the linear problem solving we started with. So there’s potential for a much more involved and interesting story.
If the price of the Kickstarter tiers are anything to go by, with a copy of the game included in tiers of 15 Swiss Francs and above (currently approx £13 / €15 / $16) it’s not likely to break the bank, particularly for a unique (for these days!) game.