On Sunrose

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.


Some words, like evening or bar­ri­er, result only in a calm, spike­less, drone.

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.
  1. 267 to be exact. []

Odile Strik

About Odile Strik

Odile A. O. Strik is editor-in-chief of The Ontological Geek. She is also a linguist from the Netherlands. She occasionally writes in other places, such as her own blog Sub Specie. You can read her innermost secrets on Twitter @oaostrik.