Deios II: Deidia

A game by BARCHboi for PC and Mac, originally released in 2016.
Deios II: Deidia is an experimental album/game/visual experience that mixes platforming into a glitched-out world filled with oddly-scaled layered sprites, beams of light, splashes of sound and music, improperly parsed overlapping text, odd popup images (which are editable), and a minimal yet somewhat unnerving narrative. The gameplay is exploration-based, with players navigating the environment and passing through doors to reach new areas, but the overall direction offered to the player is minimal.

Deidia is a sequel to the original Deios, which was also an odd amalgam of game and music and interactive art. The original game was meant as a small project but became more popular than the developer expected (he created the game as a teenager), which resulted in some criticism about the purposely antagonistic nature of the design that made it difficult for newcomers to fully experience. The sequel addresses some of those concerns.

In the original game, you take on the role of a man (possibly a god) with a customizable gun that lets you tweak stats to adjust its firing rate, reload speed, and shot configuration, allowing for loadouts that approximate a rifle, shotgun, machine gun, rockets, and a good old-fashioned spread shot. Then you take that gun into an arena and face off against a bunch of gods who do their best to kill you, while various glitches occur in the background. The gods are hard to kill (they would be, wouldn’t they?), and the protagonist is easy to kill, so players will find themselves back at the gun customization screen quite often, struggling to configure something more effective, and most likely failing again.

Deios II begins with a number of retro-style loading screens and interstitials, along with a series of landscapes that feature a white-haired individual sitting in the foreground and wearing a bright pink cape. Backgrounds continue to cycle, showing ruined cityscapes, multicolored mountains, jutting rocks, and some strange oblong alien object on the horizon.

Once the game executes, the player finds his pink cape-wearing avatar standing still on virtually featureless grey background. Surrounding this is a black border with white text showing the instructions for the game, which remain onscreen throughout the experience, although the aspect ratio of the playfield changes frequently. Popping up onscreen are messages stating “hello.txt does not exist” and “executing script startgame”, acting as background elements that have somehow glitched into the player’s view.

As the player moves to the right, he encounters a locked door that requires 100 units of DeityCoin to open. From here the player may enter a Cookie Clicker-style minigame where money is slowly accumulated over time, and resources may be purchased to increase the amount of payout per cycle. Low-value currency is created very quickly, adding to the player’s total every few seconds, while moderate-rate currency is created every few minutes, and high value currency turns over after about an hour.

The player is free to toy with the DeityCoin mining interface as he likes, spinning up money generators that keep accumulating wealth as he plays the game. In fact, a message at the bottom of the screen persistently states “THE QUICKEST WAY TO BECOMING A NAVIGATER [sic] OF THE WORLD IS THROUGH MONEY”, but accumulation of wealth is largely optional. However, early in the game, the player may find himself confronted with a door that requires a million units to open, and not long after is a door that requires one billion units (the game would have benefitted greatly from the use of commas as number separators). Opening a one billion unit door requires a significant time investment in DeityCoin mining… or the player may simply pick another direction and not attempt to open the door at all.

The world is largely open, with dozens of bite-sized themed areas and often multiple exit doors that lead the player to undetermined locations, usually with no way to immediately return to the previous area. The player’s stated goal is to find home, and then find Deidia, and no additional information is provided. As such, much of the game is spent wandering with little indication as to whether progress is being made – and some doors return the player to previous areas – requiring a bit of memorization or mapping on the part of the player, or at least frequent game saves (quadrant numbers appear in the upper right to help you keep track).

The player is able to save the game wherever he likes, which records a save state, and loading a save state places the player in the exact location where he was standing upon reload. So, if the player is offered the choice between two doors, he is encouraged to save his game first, as one of the doors may simply lead to an earlier area.

The game offers very little flat ground, and will often see the player clambering over rocky surfaces or jumping up between ledges with his wall jump ability. The player character’s movement is quite fast, which makes environmental traversal fairly easy, but can make precision jumping difficult as there is often very little room for error, and ledges tend to be quite small.

Additionally, due to the character’s high speed, there are some collision issues when running downhill, as the character doesn’t always collide with the floor as he’s running. This causes a couple of issues… First and foremost, pressing the JUMP button when the player is not standing on solid ground results in no action, which can make the controls seem unresponsive when attempting to jump from a slope.

Secondly, there is a counter at the top of the screen that clicks rapidly downward whenever the player is not touching solid ground. This allows the game to reset the player to the starting point of the room if he finds himself falling off the edge of the world – which supports the glitch-based design – but sometimes the meter clicks down to zero when the player is simply running downhill, resulting in a jarring teleportation effect which appears to have no cause. This can lead to situations where the player believes he has been teleported into a new area – because that is a thing that sometimes happens in this game – when he has actually just reset the existing room. This is exacerbated by the fact that many of the background elements look similar to one another.

Another gameplay element involves physics-based orbs that must be bounced around rooms so that they come to rest on switch plates that trigger doors. These sequences are agonizing given the player’s zero-to-super-speedy movement and the generally sloped and jagged environments. Attempting to bounce an orb uphill across jagged rocks leads to continued frustration it takes bad bounces and flies back over your head, and you fight to adjust your position to bounce it in the desired direction. This is one area where save states can help a bit as you limp toward solving an environmental challenge, but it makes the experience no less tedious.

Beyond this, environmental navigation is fairly straightforward, with a few tricks thrown in to add some additional challenge, such as obstacles that must be spun to open a path or to be used as platforms, as well as platforms that disappear very quickly, an area that flips the game world upside down and requires you to run across the ceiling, and some areas with invisible or nearly invisible walls. Treasure chests are spread throughout the world, although they merely add to your ever-growing cache of DeityCoin, rendering them redundant. There are several secrets to discover as well, including multiple endings.

As this is a game-as-art-as-album sort of experience, the game relies heavily on its aesthetics, with color schemes changing frequently, beams of colored light pressing into and often oversaturating the environment, and soundscapes being triggered as players enter new areas or encounter unique objects in the environment… although loading a save state often prevents these sounds from playing. In fact, for as simple as the visuals are, the game is surprisingly processor intensive in certain areas, resulting in some totally real we’re-not-just-doing-this-to-be-funny game crashes when nothing terribly complex is happening onscreen.

In addition, supporting the glitch-based design is an option for the player to “corrupt the server”, although the player is advised to save his game prior to doing this as the distortion effects can have a drastically adverse effect on the gameplay experience. With a button press, a popup interface lets the player distort various aspects of the visuals, including changing the colors, shaking everything, and stretching background elements and the player character itself, often making levels impossible to decipher.

Deios II: Deidia was developed by Joseph Dowsett under his BARCHboi label, based in Sydney, Australia and founded in 2013.