Some 21 years ago I spent the summer as a bag boy, filling paper sacks with other people's groceries. It was the most boring and demeaning summer of my life. Hidden Variable Studios has somehow transformed these bad memories into a hell of a good time. I might hate them.
I still remember the training video they made me watch in the dirty back room of the Kroger across the street from Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. "Build the walls!" it demanded of me, referring to the practice of lining the inside of each bag with strong, sturdy items and then filling it with loose, lighter fare. The concept doesn't translate well into Hidden Variable's Bag It!, but damn does it get re-stuck in my head every time I play it.
Like a teenage nightmare given life, Bag It! slaps funny eyes and facial hair on different types of grocery store fare and then grants you the power to destroy it, though that's not really the point. The point, level through level, is to fill a set number of grocery bags with this anthropomorphic food, being careful not to stack the fragile items beneath the heavier ones.
This is a simple enough goal, at least at first. The milk cartoons go down first, the orange juice stacked beside them. Then comes the cereal boxes, followed by the eggs. Get it wrong and the beleaguered items will shake, a countdown indicating the need to move it or lose it.
I must admit taking a rather macabre pleasure as a carton of eggs' eyes turn from happy to pleading. "Don't let us die!" those eyes beg, as I stare haughtily from above my phone, Caesar of the dairy aisle.
As new items are added to the mix, Bag It!'s true nature becomes clear: It's a relaxed version of Tetris with weight limits applied and smiling bags of chips, the latter of which I am sure Alexey Pajitnov would have included in the classic puzzle game had such graphical power been available. And isn't that what bagging groceries is? A food-centric game of Tetris?
For me Bag It! is a lovely mix of the nostalgic, the traumatic, and with its smash-friendly rampage mode, the cathartic. It's also a fine measure of how much I've grown as a person over the past two decades. Back then I wasn't sure if $US3.00 an hour was enough to keep me organising ungrateful customers' comestibles. Now I'd gladly pay $US3.00 for the opportunity.
Bag It! [Android Market]
Bag It! [iTunes]