June 25, 2013 12:00 PM | Paul Hack
Dorsaka was made for April's Stencyl Jam 2013, but it flew under my radar until it was covered on Oddities. It's a spare, atmospheric maze game that rewards planning, precise movement, and learning from your mistakes. Use the arrow keys to guide an alien being through a sparse, sandy labyrinth. Your ultimate goal is to find the way out, but there are also secrets to discover and gods to meet.
As you make your way to the pixelated exit portal on each screen, your health constantly dissipates. You have to stay alive by eating the tufts of desert grass that grow around the maze. You can pick up keys and use them to open gates, but you can only carry one key at a time. You'll frequently be torn between using up some health to get a key or just going for the exit. My advice is to keep a key on you. The nourishing grasses are arranged so that there is an optimum route through each screen, but it often depends on having a certain amount of health remaining from the previous screen. You'll surely perish a few times while trying to make your escape, and you'll encounter the ghosts of your previous incarnations on subsequent attempts.
There's a slight tendency to get caught up on the corners of walls, but this was deliberately left in to keep you focused on precision and smooth movement. Like walking a traditional labyrinth, navigating Dorsaka is a meditative process, and perhaps you can discover as much about yourself as the maze. By the way, you can press space to kneel (and possibly pray), but this doesn't have an obvious effect.
Dorsaka features striking low-resolution graphics from minimalist pixel artist Cellusious, but it has no real animation. It feels to me like a turn-based boardgame except for the real-time degradation of your health bar. There are 2 routes through the maze, and I found one of them to be distinctly more difficult. I have yet to find all of the secrets, so I know I'll be returning to the haunted labyrinth of Dorsaka.
You can play Dorsaka in your browser.