It’s entirely possible that this review will take longer to read than it’ll take the average gamer to play Today I Die. Nevertheless, this imaginative browser-based free game from Daniel Benmergui is worth more than a moment’s notice. Today I Die explores new ways of thinking about the videogame do-over by starting at “Game over.” The scene opens underwater, with the body of a dead woman floating limply in the dark. The rock tied around her waist suggests that her demise was no accident. A handwritten poem floats above her: “dead world / full of shades / today I die.” Nearby, the words “dark” and “painful” swim among fierce-looking black fish and jellyfish who glow when approached. Through point-and-click experimentation, it becomes evident that players can re-write the story and change reality by discovering and swapping new words into the poem.
Today I Die is a game about writing, or more accurately, editing. Each tweak to the poem is a fresh draft and another chance to get it right. Benmergui’s over-inflated pixels echo the look of the Atari 2600, dragging nostalgia with them—perhaps a little heavy-handedly. Still, it’s hard to bear ill will against a game that aims to mend wounds rather than inflict them.
Beyond the game: Benmergui is among the many creative, idiosyncratic minds who presented their work at the Experimental Gameplay Sessions at this year’s Game Developers Conference. His previous game, I Wish I Were The Moon, similarly futzes with reality by using a Polaroid snapshot to capture and move moments.
Worth playing for: Bite-sized games like Today I Die are fast and cheap, but not flimsy. There are many lessons to be learned and questions to be pondered in such short experiments such as this. We’re richer for having so many to play, digest, and discuss.
Frustration sets in when: Those who think too long about the financial limitations that prevent this kind of experimentation from sneaking into larger, longer, and more expensive games may be inspired to go looking for a rock, a rope, and a deep lake.
Final judgment: The new text adventure.