- Developer: 22Cans
- Publisher: 22Cans
- Formats: iOS (tested), Android
- Price: Free
- Release date: Out now
After talking to designer Peter Molyneux, it feels wrong to call Curiosity a game. It's an "experiment" he says, the first test he and his new company 22Cans have set themselves to see how they can motivate players whilst probing the mobile space.
An ominous black cube, composed of 64 billion microscopic "cubelets", Curiosity can be accessed by Android and iOS users from around the world at once, with each player laboriously chipping away at its surface until the entire thing disappears.
What's at the centre? Nobody apart from Molyneux, and one other person knows, but apparently it's "life-changing."
Only one of us will get to see it, however; Curiosity's masterstroke is that, despite the Pyramid-building levels of manpower and co-operation needed to destroy the cube, only one person, the one who taps the final piece, will see what's in the centre first-hand.
It's incredibly devious.
On one hand, Curiosity is an affable co-op affair, prompting players to work together on a once in a lifetime experience. On the other, it's a rabid treasure hunt; the cube is lovey-dovey right now, with peace symbols and marriage proposals being scrawled into its sides, but once it begins to shrink, people's natural competition will kick in and all that communality will descend into cannibalism.
Multiplayer games have been working on this for years. Drawing players closely together is what teamspeak, 20-man raids and clan matches are about; pitting them against one another is why we have team death matches.
But 22Cans has consolidated all of that psychological and emotional drama into one, ultra-simplistic conceit, the game's eponymous curiosity driving people to work together and fight each other in equal measure. On the surface, Curiosity is a one-note game of tap the screen, but peel away its layers and its far more complex.
Unfortunately, it's been mired by server crashes. The influx of curious players (more than 500,000 and counting) is more than 22Cans' six man team has been able to handle, leading to several game outages and some lost progress.
Chaining together taps earns you coins, which can be used to buy tools make tapping quicker. But the server crashes have reset a lot of players' point tallies, making Curiosity, for some, more trouble than it's worth.
Nevertheless, it's a unique platform for would-be artists, who have been sharing their doodles on the cube all week. Below we have Batman:
And even a review of Curiosity itself:
At present, more than 146 million cubelets have been tapped away, with the community about to break through the second layer. What appears to be a picture of a lava lamp in the 22Cans office has been revealed, with no further clues as to what's in the cube's centre.
Facebooks statuses and Twitter topics also float over the cube's surface, with "RIP Clive Dunn" appearing written on Curiosity to honour the death of the Dad's Army actor.
It's a tiny bit magical. Therapeutic quality of popping the cube's digital bubble-wrap aside, the presence of those homemade pictures and messages from across the web has turned Curiosity into a kind of ambient bulletin board, where you can go and check it to see what people are up do while relaxing by tapping some cubelets.
"It's a bit mad" admits Molyneux, but it's also pretty cool.
Lofty ideas about psychology this and artwork that notwithstanding, Curiosity's a fun game to be around, and talk about. It's something to share with your friends; already a Twitter account called @OnTheCubeBlog has devoted itself to preserving the best pictures and co-ordinating the tapping effort.
It's fun, interesting and potentially historical: If the servers get sorted out and the community keeps up this level of devotion (and if the centre really is life-changing) Curiosity could mark the point where multiplayer games stopped being about kill streaks and went back to being social. A unique experiment that really challenges the role of smartphones in gaming, Curiosity is available for free on the App Store and Google Play right now.
Overall score: 9/10