Steven Hanus, the man behind Heinous Games, has successfully melted Ouya players’ brains with Powerups that Kill!, a small and unique indie title recently ported from Android. Hanus has found a way to use game design to essentially hack the connection between players’ eyes and brains with some of the trippiest optical illusions I’ve ever witnessed.
First, the basics. Power Ups that Kill! places players in control of a small triangle (spaceship?) that they must steer left and right to navigate a twisting passageway winding through a set of procedurally generated wavy lines. One touch of a wall ends the game, and players build up points with each round of play. Building up points unlocks different powerups in the game, and each powerup takes the trippy experience to a new level of insanity. Each powerup plays tricks on the eyes and mind in different ways as the experience grows more psychedelic and hilarious with each new unlock.
My Living Room on Digital Mushrooms
After watching the trippy and colorful lines whiz past for five to 10 minutes at a time, the visuals start to blend and melt together, similar to those magic eye puzzles that were so popular in the 90′s. After hitting a wall, the game ends and the real magic begins. As the game fades to black, my entire living room begins to shift and melt around me as my eyes struggle to adjust to reality. The game design itself makes my eyes adapt to the quickly passing rows of psychedelic waves, to the point that they expect the movement to continue after it has stopped. My eyes continue to send signals to my brain indicating that my field of vision is trippily melting downward, which causes me to see my entire living room through the eyes of Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Walls, computers, people — everything shifts and melts upwards as if my living room is about to launch into warp speed. Myself and my companions couldn’t stop playing this game, more for the out-of-this-world after effects than the game itself. I tried looking up YouTube videos of the game to see if they had the same effect, but unfortunately they do not. You’ve got to try this one for yourself.
Free on Ouya
Powerups that Kill! features a highly respectable monetization model for an indie game. The game is completely free to play, but the first screen a player sees is an optional donation page, giving the ability to donate a range of amounts from 99 cents to $10. Heinous Games has decided to earn its money based on the game’s awesome design, rather than the irresistible allure of a free trial.