This is the eighty-eighth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
Once more, the random number generators have pulled a random selection from the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. This time, it’s Guppy, by Christiaan Moleman. Its tagline in the bundle reads:
2D watercolor fish simulation
Heh, watercolor. I see what you did there, Christiaan Moleman.
Guppy is a very simple game. Players control a small hand-drawn guppy from a top-down perspective by manually moving its tail. Alternating the arrow keys will propel the guppy forwards as it swings its tail, while changing the rhythm to favor one side or the other causes the guppy to turn. There’s a small explorable area to swim around in, populated by schools of other hand-drawn fish, watercolor scenery, and flies to eat to increase one’s score. Sometimes larger predator fish appear. To avoid them, the player’s guppy must hide underneath one of the watercolor lily pads. Play falls into a pattern of darting around seeking out flies before dashing to the safety of the lily pads, and seeing how many flies the guppy can devour before it gets eaten itself.
That’s pretty much it. The art is lovely, although it defaults to a small window. There is an option to switch to fullscreen, but I didn’t find it right away because the game’s menu does not appear when it starts. Players are simply dropped into the game and told to start swimming. After I was devoured, I discovered a menu with options that allowed fullscreen, but this just scales up the 2D art to fill the screen, resulting in a blurry image. Guppy feels like it should be played in its windowed form, a small footprint to match its small scope. Not every game needs to be big and complicated, sometimes simply swimming around a beautiful pond for a bit is enough. The menu also lets players turn off the predator fish if they prefer a fully peaceful swim.
I enjoyed swimming around as a guppy, although I never quite got the hang of turning. Sometimes I’d try to aim for a fly, but end up narrowly missing it, only to be caught in a spiral as I repeatedly failed to turn around quickly enough to snap it up. I did like how the guppy can quickly reach high speeds, which felt true to the experience of an actual guppy, darting around with quick movements. I wish there were a larger area to swim in though, since I frequently ran into its invisible edges.
But it’s a bit silly to complain about these things, because Guppy is clearly intended as a small experience for players to indulge in for just a few minutes at a time. Just a nice place to swim around for a bit. It doesn’t need to be anything more than this. If a quick and pretty swim sounds nice to you, why not try it out? If you missed it in the bundle, Guppy is sold for a minimum price of $3, including versions for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android.
That’s 88 down, and only 1653 to go! It also means we’ve now covered 5% of the bundle. So how are we doing on racial justice? The conversation hasn’t died down, as I feared it might, but it’s difficult to judge whether progress is truly being made. There are a lot of people talking about it, there’s highly rated television being made and watched about it, there’s even an executive order about it that can be read on the White House website that went into effect in January. But is any of this translating into real change? We may not be able to tell for many years to come. With 95% of the bundle still to go, it’s possible I’ll be able to point to definitive evidence of progress towards racial justice before this series is over. I certainly hope so.