Toys are different from games, and it’s taken a while for this realisation to bridge the media gap between the physical and the digital. At this point, however, we’re comfortable with some digital works being more toy than game. We can play with them, but not play them, as such. Some digitoys sit comfortably on your smartphone, like Tale of Tales’ Vanitas from a few years back, where the sliding open of a box would reveal a trinity of objects selected at random. Little movable and shakeable vanities, and the occasional rare moment where you would get two or even three identical items.
Others, like David O’Reilly’s somewhat controversial Mountain — “Is this even a game? It’s on Steam though!” — are happy to be placed somewhere in the corner of your desktop, gently turning in the background or foreground, somewhat like a little snowglobe you’d put on your ‘real’ desktop.
Today, I downloaded Sunrose, the kind of toy that wants to occupy your entire screen. A combination of seven letters forms the seed for a procedurally generated sun that turns at the bottom of the screen. The sun’s varying number of ‘spikes’ play a harmonic tone when they pass through the highest point of their rotation, accompanied by a background drone. With the spikes as little petals, the sun is indeed like a rose, but the soft pastel tints of the surrounding skies also suggest a sunrise. It’s a clever name, in other words.
Sunrose is a bit like a music box, but with a huge variety of looping melodies.1 Although there are several letter combinations that generate special effects, along with a couple of easter eggs, the vast majority of suns are random. However, all of them are harmonious and soothing.
It also functions happily as a screensaver, or some gentle tones to have playing in the background while you do stuff around the room you have it running in. Or you could crank up the volume, give the sun a big whirl, and scare your cat.
In other words, it’s something that’s nice to play around with, a thing with moving parts that are elegant in their simplicity. A beautiful toy.
Sunrose (PC and Mac) is downloadable for $0 or more on itch.io.
- 267 to be exact. [↩]