What we've discovered from chipping away at Peter Molyneux's enigmatic experiment.
There's a lot we can't tell you about the newly released Curiosity: What's Inside The Cube, the first gaming experiment from Peter Molyneux's post-Lionhead start-up studio 22Cans. We don't know what we'll discover once the first layer has been peeled away. We don't even know whether player curiosity can sustain the game towards the end of its life. Critically, and if we make it that far, only one person will make the final tap and discover the 'life-changing' reward promised by Molyneux himself.
We do know how that mysterious message will be conveyed however, and the explanation lies within the terms and conditions included with this premature release of the game. Whatever the reward may be, it will be delivered in the form of a video message which the recipient can choose to share with the world, or selfishly covet for their eyes alone.
What about the actual game of Curiosity though? An enormous black cube hangs gently in a pristine white room. Tapping on the monolith zooms the user slowly in towards a patch of black tiles, each of which can be individually tapped away to reveal a green tile. Molyneux's technical ambition has hit the brick wall of reality in one regard however, and there's now a 15 second delay before the impact of other players' work becomes apparent on your own device.
That slow revelation of player activity reveals a hint of the psychology behind its participants. Are you the organized tapper who clears every cube within a clearly delineated zone? Are you a messy chipper who drums his fingers furiously across the screen, gathering huge numbers of coins but leaving a mess behind for others to clear up? Perhaps you're the graffiti artist who stamps their name or date of birth upon the surface of the cube.
The coins collected for clearing tiles can be used in the cash store to purchase special tools that allow you to clear more space at once. There are fire crackers that allow you to set off a chain of tile explosions, bombs that clear swathes of land and, of course, those infamous chisels. At the lower end of the coin cost, the iron chisel destroys nine blocks with one tap, while the diamond chisel costs 3 billion coins but gives the wielder enormous destructive power.
The fascination of Curiosity extends beyond the gargantuan cube itself. For a meager sum of coins, you can access the latest stats of the game: layers removed, cubelets remaining on the current layer, the total number of cubes destroyed and so on. It's as intriguing to watch this collaborative struggle play out in hard numbers, as it is hypnotically compelling to clear just one more patch of territory on the cube itself.
We can't tell you how this experiment will end. Molyneux himself explained recently that not even his wife and children knew what lay at the heart of the puzzle, so fearful was he that the secret would be revealed ahead of the experiment. As a result, much of the impact of Curiosity: What's Inside The Cube remains out of our grasp for now.
As an experience in the here and now though it's strangely compelling to both participate and observe this strange story unfold, and we'll continue to play our own part in the peculiar experiment. We'll be sure to keep you updated on what we uncover along the way.