When video games are properly immersive, they activate an ancient, atavistic part of our brain. We hearken back to a time of mysticism and lore, a time when each day represented a struggle for survival, a time before we were the apex predator/consumer in a supermarket’s smorgasbord of slayed beasts. Agar.io, takes this a full step further backward into our reptile brain. Agar.io simulates the life cycle of a single-celled organism, where your primary and only relevant urge is to eat, and to avoid being eaten.
In THIS GAME IS CRACK | Agar.io, decorated Minecraft veteran AntVenom spawns as a tiny amoeba blob, in a world of hyper-aggressive and tactically proficient mega-blobs. The gameplay of Agar-io is deceptively simple — you direct your little avatar-blob with your mouse, and you can eat any blob (whether player controlled or NPC-generated) that is sufficiently smaller than you. When you rub up against a roughly equal-sized blob, you bounce off harmlessly, when you rub up against a larger blob, you are consumed, and your game ends.
For advanced blobs, seeking to scale the evolutionary ladder, a few more abilities present themselves. You can lash out, splitting your self into roughly equal sized portions, to attempt to surprise and unwitting piece of blob-food. You can also eject some of your own blob mass, if you want to offer up a distraction to a larger blob in pursuit, a sort of primordial chaff countermeasure.
AntVenom’s ameoba angst is well delivered to his audience in his LP. He whimpers as massive blobs show an interest in consuming his little entity. He salivates as smaller, edible players come within his sphere of influence. He splits and congeals like a dutiful little protozoa.
Agar.io does not have a multi-million dollar budget, it will most certainly not be represented by marketing reps and costumed personnel at San Diego Comic Con, but it is, nevertheless, one of the best designed flash games I’ve ever seen. It’s remarkably exciting, strategy-filled, and addictive. It has the play and feel of a much older generation of games — specifically Intellivision’s Shark Shark! a brilliantly designed, eat-or-be-eaten game in the early 1980s four-bit universe.
While Hololens compatible CGI, celebrity cameo voice over, and top-notch writing are welcomed in video games — they aren’t always necessary. Sometimes a mechanic is so compelling because it is the very mechanic that has been hard-wired into our DNA for 3 billion years.