• Thecatamites presents 11 strange and joyful handcrafted music games
07.31.14

Thecatamites presents 11 strange and joyful handcrafted music games

What happens when you task 50 Short Games and Space Funeral creator thecatamites (Stephen Murphy) with a month-long pageant in which participants are challenged to create a game based on a single song? The answer is as unpredictable as expected, involving a planet of singing mice, a dead dog, and dancing skeletons.

Ever fermenting, thecatamites put his colouring pens to paper for eleven games altogether, stuffing them all into his "HARMONY SUMMER HARDPACK TAPE 11-IN-1".

The Kingdom of Death is a surprisingly animated place. 

His disclaimer of "I hate music" seems disingenuous considering the show of eclecticism across his selection of songs. Anything goes: out-of-tune guitars, punchy punk anthems, upbeat Sicilian folk music. Potato-pressed out of these foundational tracks is a tale of a peculiar ex-detective lamenting the old days, and an erratic water gun fight that finds joy in accidental destruction, plus many more that are equally self-contained.

Favourites naturally emerge out of playing through all eleven of these games, and so it's those few that stood out to me that'll form my focus below. The rest of the surprising videogame mixtape can be played at your own leisure right in your browser, so go and dive right on in.

Tarantella Sicilienne

This short story is told with equal shades historical retelling and surrealism. The pippy tune and its grainy quality adds the screwball comedy feel of a ragtime documentary. In essence, it's about a provident farmer who is hated by his kids as he spends the seasons harvesting wheat in his field. Characters disappear, are haunted by dreams, and then the dog dies. It all comes to a rather depressing and unforeseeable end.

Dance of the Inhabitants of the Court of King Philip XIV (of Spain) 

The Kingdom of Death is a surprisingly animated place. Skeletons dance and blow on royal trumpets as banners sporting skulls flap in the breeze. There are banqueting halls of meat and mead and jesters that fling their bones about with glee. You guide Meepo and Drizzly through this delightful necropolis as they step to the cheery noodling of a guitar.

We Will Vacation 

An energetic garage punk song enthuses a four-way water gun fight across a house and its surrounding lawn. Chairs fall and plants are crippled as you give chase, squirting water at your friends, entirely losing yourself in the joie de vivre.

Valse Sentimentale 

A peculiar ex-detective laments the loss of crime and murder in a city where he once served. He blames realist fiction and the stylization of hardboiled detectives such as Dick Tracy for causing the downfall. It's probably the most recognizably thecatamites game in the pack. The melancholic wobbly notes of the Theremin only add to the omnipresent strangeness.