Proving that being late to the party doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy yourself, Quick Fingers made Obsolescence in just 24 hours, though you wouldn’t be able to tell otherwise. Keeping with the theme of LD23, Obsolescence pits the human race at the very terminus of our existence and, as if a parasite, we have eaten up the resources of all the big planets and all that is left are dwarf planets, with minimal resources and space to spread our wide girth. The idea of the game, then, is to survive for as long as possible.
You’ll start Obsolescence off on a small planet and taught to rotate it with the mouse. In this game, your concern is not managing the planet – your thoughts are at all times with finding the next planet for which to send the termite-like humans to chew up next. As decades fly by every second, skyscrapers and homes are erected upon the planet and you’ll see the resources bar slowly deteriorate.
The gameplay itself actually revolves (literally) around paying attention to the radial dial around the planet and launching probes off into space missions. Once a few seconds have passed, decades or centuries in game time, the probe will return with feedback of its journey. What you don’t want is for it to bring back no results, which can happen. The least you can hope for are readings of photosynthesis which indicate a planet and the feedback will tell you how many degrees away this is from your last launch point – you’ll have to guess whether to rotate left or right. With a guesstimate or with pure luck your probe will come within the vicinity of a nearby planet and it will tell you how many nearby planets there are and how the resources are on said planet. You’ll be given the option to colonize that one and then the cycle carries of, or to stay on the current one and hopefully find a more resource rich planet. The more planets you colonize the tougher things go on, but the gameplay never changes, just the countdown becomes more pressured.
This is a game with a pretty bleak outset and the game’s presentation adequately matches that. I absolutely love the sounds in Obsolescence, merely because sci-fi whirrs and beeps are fun to hear. But it’s more than that too – a gentle piano and ambiance really creates a tone to match the game’s outset and gameplay. Everything is a bit of a panic for you, but inevitably this is the damnation of the human race, as the game says in its introduction, “These are end times” and that permeates through the game.
Initially, I thought that Obsolescence could have done with something to vary up the gameplay as things progress. Perhaps some very light research elements, such as spending resources to make another probe or research a probe that travels quicker, or tells exact locations of nearby planets when it issues feedback. I then came to the decision that to do this, the game would have had to be made a little slower in order to give the player time to do such things. This would mar the experience, adding more to it or slowing it down, simply because the game captures desperation and hopelessness in its simplicity – a race against death.
Obsolescence isn’t the greatest thing ever made, but it captures the atmosphere it sets out to very well and supplies that feeling in its gameplay too. Considering this is a 24 hour effort, it’s pretty remarkable, though I still think something could be added to it to make progression feel more worthwhile over than a highscore. Then again, as things progress, you feel more hopeless as the human race dwindles and begin to lose hope as they swallow planets before you can find another suitor for them to move on to. Perhaps it’s fine as it is after all.
You can rate Obsolescence over on the Ludum Dare page, where you can also download it. You may prefer to play in your browser though, in which case, head over to Kongregate.