I want to tell you about Strawberry Cubes, a game that's causing me to lose my grip on sanity.
Designed by Loren Schmidt, Strawberry Cubes was quietly released a few weeks back without much -- any? -- explanation. The website offers no useful information, and the instruction manual with the game recommends you "try pressing other keys" to learn how all of the controls work.
The game opens with a title screen, immediately lulling you into a false sense of security.
There are three holes, all of which are valid paths. By "valid," of course, I mean, the game offers no reason to go in one or the other, so you might as well pick one and see what happens.
Rooms seem to change on a whim, with no rhyme or reason behind them. I'd loop back to a room after a few minutes of exploration, only to realise objects had shifted, and there were new and unexpected holes in the wall. Hours later, I'm still not sure what caused it to change.
Some games glitch by accident; Strawberry Cubes glitches on purpose. It seems to be about glitches, really, and allows the player to exploit them. In most games, that would mean you're given some kind of advantage over the world around you, but that's hardly clear in Strawberry Cubes.
I'm not sure I'd call Strawberry Cubes horror, per say, but it's unnerving -- it kept me on edge. Most of that stemmed from genuinely not knowing what the hell was going on. Strawberry Cubes offers no explanation or explicit justification for its existence, it asks you to figure it out.
The game rewards observation, granting extraordinary powers if you're paying close attention.
For example, as you move from room-to-room, you'll notice hidden numbers and letters.
For a brief moment, in the jumble of images at the center of the screen, there's the number seven. If you press the number seven on your keyboard, you warp there.
Other rooms attach numbers to the player, including asterisks! In this case, 97*. (The numbers seem to change at random.) When I punched in all the numbers on the screen, this happened:
I have no idea what 97* is actually doing here, but you can do it over and over again. It has no discernible impact on what's going on, yet several rooms in Strawberry Cubes respond this way.
As far as I can tell, you're supposed to collect seeds in Strawberry Cubes. You can also plant them, allowing you to find areas that are out of reach. I was using every seed I came across before I realised if I simply pressed up while touching a wall, I could climb wherever I felt like.
I eventually decided to take the game's advice and start experimenting with the keyboard, once I'd realised the letter G would always return me to that room in the GIF above.
V allowed me to change the game's aesthetic, though it didn't actually alter the layout.
The semicolon would produce a chicken capable of pooping lasers?
Other keys sent me to hidden rooms, warped me across the screen, or surfaced shit like this:
Perhaps most impressive, however, was the ability to spawn endless frogs that eventually started wrecking havoc on the frame rate and bringing my powerful computer to a standstill:
I presume there is a rhyme or reason to Strawberry Cubes that I haven't yet uncovered, but maybe not! Perhaps it's supposed to convey what it's like to play with unfinished code, a mess of ideas and elements with promise and purpose not quite harmonized into a singular vision. There hasn't been much discussion about the game on the Internet, so I can't troll through message boards for insight into the who, what, where, and many whys of Strawberry Cubes.
Instead, I'll leave you with a screen shot from a room I found in the game that I cannot explain.
If you'd like to watch me fumble through a few minutes of the game, you can do so below, but I'm mostly hoping one of you intrepid readers can help me make sense of Strawberry Cubes.