September 18, 2013 2:50 PM | Paul Hack
ALPHABET (the actual title doesn't properly display) is the centerpiece of the LA Game Space Experimental Game Pack 01, and it's wonderful. Created by the powerhouse team of Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Adam Saltsman (Canabalt, Capsule), ALPHABET is also notable for its control scheme, which makes use of all 26 letter keys on your keyboard.
This setup almost sounds like a stunt, but in these artists' capable hands, it forms the basis for a great little game about speed, concentration, attention, multi-tasking, spatial awareness, keyboard awareness, and fun. And poop. It's suitable for all ages and could even conceivably be called educational.
The game is incredibly polished and sports adorable, cartoon-like graphics and a bizarre, hilarious soundtrack. The basic premise is that the letters of the English alphabet are going on a run through a series of courses. There are plenty of obstacles, but none are fatal. On each level, you simultaneously control 3-26 letters and you need to get them all to the finish line, in whatever order you can. Each letter is controlled by its corresponding letter key. You hold it down to run, and you let go to jump. Now do that with multiple keys at once, or with a couple of specific keys at a specific moment.
The controls are spot-on, but not all keyboards support as many simultaneous keystrokes as this game demands. Of course, not all hands do, either. There are little tricks to master that will help you in these situations, like using the letter in last place to push everyone in front of them. There are powerups to aid you that will temporarily turn every runner into the same letter. The camera is helpful, too, and zooms out to encompass every letter if your group gets spread out.
Donating $15 to LA Game Space will get you access to ALPHABET and every other game in Experimental Game Pack 01. 23 games are already available to download and at least 10 more are on the way (including one by Pedleton Ward and Bennett Foddy!). While this game works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, note that not all games in the pack do.
For more full-keyboard hijinks, check out Steve Swink's Inputting, also part of the Experimental Game Pack.