Hardware: PC (WINDOWS)
Released: 2003
Publisher: CLY5M
Developer: CLY5M

By Joshua Farrelly / July 18, 2011

Seiklus is apparently the game where it all began; the first "indie" game. Not the first amateur game mind you, just the first game where its supporters would employ words like "independent", "art", "fan" and "meaning" as rhetorical shields against the obvious criticisms of its deficiencies. Amateur designers have always played an important part in the history of video games, and they've been there since the beginning. The only distinction is that, until recently, they required no shields. This is either because they were actually talented, or because they could freely admit that their bad games weren't masterpieces and try harder next time or quit.

So Seiklus appears to be, if not the first title that used the label "indie", then certainly the first of them to achieve some measure of fame. The glowing reviews and accolades kept piling up, and an entire generation of amateurs, hoping to replicate the results, suddenly began describing themselves as "indie". And what was all the fuss about? It was, to put it simply, about a botched collectathon platformer. Another way of putting it is that it was a horribly designed version of one of the worst versions of a side-view action game. However just calling it this would be letting it off the hook. For example, Super Mario: Yossy Island is also a botched collectathon platformer, due to cop-out mechanics like hovering and a semi-God Mode health system that nullifies most of the thrill and sense of achievement from the action, but that game is a full-fledged masterpiece compared to this abortion of game design.

The action is ultra-primitive. You can only run, jump, climb, and swim, none of which feel good due to a combination of bad, glitchy physics and the bad form and animation of your puny character which is little more than a stick figure. There are virtually no enemies at all. There is a type of object shaped like a squid doodle that when touched activates a save-state a couple hundred pixels back, and another one shaped like a hippo doodle that knocks you down a chain a bit. I guess these qualify as enemies. The ultimate goal is to collect a lot of stuff and reach a point on the map that activates the credits. What exactly you are required to collect to do this I don't know, as I was only generous enough to play through half of it, which even then took me way past my usual limit of tolerance for boring, stupid backtracking.

Seiklus's defenders will say that despite its poor action, the game's merit lies in its non-violence and creating a sense of exploration and adventure.

On the subject of it being non-violent, you can't argue that it isn't, much like with, say, Mortal Kombat, since there is no way for the player to get hurt. However, as a representation of violence it is perhaps worse, since your character will cataclysmically shape the game world by brazenly deleting hundreds of orbs and other virtual tchotchkes from existence. Really, I think the game's creator should have thought about what kind of message he was sending with mechanics like this.

On the sense of exploration and adventure, the game fails miserably. Creating an effective sense of adventure requires a couple fundamental things, like peculiar and/or attractive environments, peril, and rewarding payoffs. This is why the Indiana Jones movies involve someone exploring strange, captivating environments laden with booby traps and magical treasure while being assaulted by Nazis and hostile natives, instead of someone rummaging through their dresser drawer for nickels. There's not much peril in Seiklus because there are only temporary obstructions and no time limit. There's not much of a payoff because it's unchallenging and seeing something new isn't rewarding because the visuals are all generic and poorly drawn. Even in adventure-oriented games without much peril like Riven, The Neverhood, and Nanatsu Kaze no Shima Monogatari, you at least get the payoff of seeing lots of interesting things.

If the game's creator wanted to make a better exploration game, he should've made it more like Metal Slug. I've been exploring that game for years now. It's fun and rewarding to explore the environments for hidden points and prisoners. I still like exploring the visuals to catch every bit of detail in them. I really like exploring the mechanics to see all the weird ways it's possible to clear the game. Right now I'm exploring what it takes to clear the game without pressing the up or down directions and how to clear it with the least number of jumps (34). Compared to a 1996 side-view action shooter with linear structure, Seiklus's exploration is like rummaging through a dresser drawer for nickels.

One good thing I'll say about the game is that one stage features a cover of the loading music from Sanction. It has a decent hook and there's a possibility that I may want to listen to it once more.


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