Cry me a river, Part II: Today I Die

Game Review

Courtesy Of Daniel Benmergui
On Monday, I covered “Passage,” and, as promised, today I return with another art game for your perusal. This time it’s another short emotion-‘em-up, but worry not: Today’s selection is not nearly as morbid as Jason Rohrer’s five-minute wonder. “Passage” may have instilled the fear of death in people across the globe, but today’s game will leave you in awe of the kindness of the human spirit—or something to that effect. Read on, and enjoy.

“Today I Die”

Don’t let the title fool you. I promised that this game would reaffirm your faith in humanity, and by God, I swear it will. “Today I Die” is a game by Argentinean experimental game designer Daniel Benmergui. It was a finalist for this year’s Independent Games Festival Nuovo award, an honor given to games that are “Abstract, shortform, and unconventional.” It is all of those things, and much more.

“Today I Die” begins, as all games do, with a rather sad girl floating amidst a sea of jellyfish and two menacing-looking black creatures. There’s a poem at the top that reads, “Dead world/full of shades/today I die.” Two other words swim with the girl and sea creatures: “dark” and “painful.”

Okay, so we’re not exactly off to a happy start. But as you interact with the girl and her environment, you get new words to change the tone of the poem. Grab a hold of the jellyfish and it begins to glow. Keep it away from the black fish for long enough, and the word “shine” appears. “Today I die” becomes “today I shine.” The girl transforms into a glowing beacon in the mist, causing the jellyfish around her to light up and push away the black fish.

Once you figure things out and begin changing the poem, “Today I Die” quickly reveals itself to be anything but depressing. When you’re finished changing the poem to its final version, it’s difficult not to smile at the game’s final, uplifting message. The experience is helped along by the creator’s trademark pixel art—as if there’s any other sort of art in these games anyway—that’s minimalist yet expressive. The art is accompanied by downright lovely piano music, which changes to fit the current poem and its mood.

Though I clearly didn’t have any qualms about spoiling “Passage,” I won’t allow myself to spoil the final version of the poem. I desperately—desperately—want to, but I can’t, so I’ll merely assure you the way in which the game ends is equal parts brilliant and heartwarming. I will let it slip that there are two endings to the game, however. Each ending adds a different final line to the poem, and both are splendid in the way that they complete the story.

“Today I Die” is a flash game, and can be found at the creator’s Web site at http://www.ludomancy.com/games/today.php. Alongside it is a description that says, “This game is ad-free thanks to an unusual individual,” which warms my heart almost as much as the game does.