Everyone has, at some point, encountered a software glitch. Maybe someone’s Facebook page was all messed up. Maybe your word processor just crashed. Glitches are usually a pain, but sometimes, that pain can be fun.
Glitch Dungeon is one of those instances. Created by University of Alabama computer science student Jake Trower, is a game that’s actually programmed to glitch more and more as you play. And to beat it, you’ll have to learn how to master these glitches. “I wanted players to feel like they were experiencing this rapidly deteriorating and corrupting dungeon that they were exploring,” Tower tells Co.Design.
When Towers was conceiving the game, he was inspired by his own mistakes as a budding programmer–things like, improperly coding a level so a character could walk straight off a cliff into midair. This is the first glitch-skill you encounter in Glitch Dungeon, and as you progress through levels, your character encounters new glitches that you’ll need to activate at just the right time to work your way through an 8-bit world of spikes, bricks, and weird, pixel-blob creatures (creatures that Towers admits, fit the broken aesthetic, as well as his own laziness).
Exploiting glitches is, of course, a long-standing tradition in gaming. When speed runners set record times in beating Super Mario Bros, they use one of the most famous glitches of all time: Sending Mario into a hole (possibly to die), but in the process, landing him on a pixel-wide gap in the bricks that propels him in a super heroic jump across the screen.
As Glitch Dungeon progresses, your character will develop similar powers that feel like a deal with the digital devil. He’ll learn to float, but with a strange, choppy lag. He’ll walk through enemies and walls, but he will also disappear from your view in the process, making him difficult to control. And with the activation of each different power, the levels colors will shift and invert wildly, increasing your anxiety that something is going wrong, and celebrating the glitch itself an element of level design.
But the nicest touch may be that in many levels, Towers pasted the glitched strings of code right on top of the screen as you encounter these errors as part of the gameplay for the first time, spilling a bit of postmodern self-reference across the dungeon, while adding to the general effect of playing a game that seems on the brink of collapse.