Play This Right Now: Candy Box 2

I’m getting kind of tired of this non-game movement. You know the ones; a “game” about nothing, that generally involves clicking incessantly and watching numbers climb.  It certainly didn’t start with Cookie Clicker, but recently the interwebs and my gaming circles were abuzz with incessant chattering about that little… thought experiment, or whatever it’s supposed to be.

I get it. At least, I think I do. It’s the basest sort of Skinner box—click cookie, receive points—and probably serves as commentary on modern game development or whatever. Candy Box 2 seemed to be marching along in the same direction: pieces of candy accrue automatically, and you can either eat them all or throw ten pieces on the ground.

But then a funny thing happens. Save up enough candy, and you can start making “developer requests” for more content. A cheeky configuration menu lets you invert the colors or change the language to French—ah, the illusion of choice! And then there’s a save button. And a health bar. And suddenly a map, and a village, and a forge that offers weapons and a cellar full of rats that need dealing with. “Combat” is a hands off affair: equip the weapons you’ve earned and your ASCII avatar plows left to right, ostensibly trading blows and it encounters miscellaneous critters.

Epic combat on an ASCII scale.

It’s hard to put a finger on the allure here. In Cookie Clicker, the point (or non-point?) was to optimize your cookie-production stream and crank out consistently larger numbers of cookies. If you kind of stare at it from the right angle it’s essentially World of Warcraft stripped down to the bare metal—click a button, acquire some tchotchke that’ll make further button clicks more effective, until the developer runs out of content.

This is different. This is about exploration: candies accrue at a steady pace, and you can earn more by slaying the world’s fauna. But the world is far more interesting: a lonely cyclops stands guard  at a  lighthouse. A squirrel doles out candies in exchange for solving riddles. A naked monkey wizard lurks in a cave, awaiting challengers—hah, like I’m going to mess with a naked monkey wizard. Hovering over the map reveals new points of interest, with more unlocking as you defeat foes or navigate mazes.

It’s weird, really. But definitely worth firing up and leaving in a browser tab—it is of course free, and should work anywhere the internet does.

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