If you don’t know Neven Mrgan, you should. By day he’s a designer at Panic, Inc. where he works on their famous “shockingly good” software such as Coda and Transmit. But by night, Mrgan works in collaboration with others on projects for iOS. Mrgan’s previous game, The Incident, was as much aesthetic as it was fun to play. It nailed an 8-bit look and sound reminiscent of vintage arcade games, combined with a gameplay style that can only be described as the hellish opposite of Tetris.
Mrgan’s latest game, however, is a bit simpler. In Blackbar, the player reads mail. Mhmm. Mail. But the twist lies in that each new piece of mail has large redacted chunks of text – and it’s up to you to figure out what those words are. Unlike most iOS games, Blackbar figured out how to tell a story by simply playing the game. The further you get in your mail, the more aware you become of the dystopian society you and your correspondent live in.
Visually, Blackbar’s as minimal as its gameplay. From a distance, the game looks like no more than an open text editor (which is great for those who hate to play games on their phone in public). Mrgan’s use of Courier for a typeface set on a white background gives it a very realistic feel that leaves all of the game’s sci-fi nature up to your own imagination. Mrgan claims that Blackbar isn’t explicitly a comment on the NSA or government censorship. But despite its stripped-down nature, the sometimes Orwellian narrative of the game is loud and clear.
With games like Letterpress and Hearts, we’re seeing that simple is often best for mobile gaming. I’d say that Blackbar’s aesthetic and functional minimalism might be our best testament to that thought – and hopefully an inspiration for iOS games to come.
Download Blackbar on iOS here for $3.