Tinyhack: minimalist adventure half the size of a favicon

tinyhack.pngAmazing favicon hacks such as Matheiu Henri's Defender of the Favicon made me wonder: just how small could a game go? I'm not much of a coder, but over the weekend I had a go at making an adventure game only 8x8 pixels in size. It's barely-playable and has all the charm of a malicious lite-brite. But once you've found the sword, shield and the all-important, all-healing pub, you can dash through it in a few minutes. I bet a really great programmer could fit a proper roguelike into the same space! As it seems more like a 1970s electronic toy than a video game, I also made sure to include the original box, which explains exactly what those meaningless pixels are. (And you can refresh the page for a randomly generated one) Play Tinyhack


  1. sounds like fun. i really dig the “original box”! but nothing would open for me, will check back in the morning.

  2. Fun for the first minute or so, but after that… well there is no after that. You can only kill 3 monsters before your health is gone. Too bad.

    1. Find the pub and it will refill all your health when you visit. The pub is in the town which is a few entrances right and up from where you start (it’s the only entrance in the middle of grass). Grab some magic while you’re in the town too–you’ll need the magic to kill the bright pink monsters.

  3. Wow shadow island is hard as hell. I think the text might be a wrong too–I found the sword in the forest and the shield in the tomb. Really enjoy this little game though!

  4. I see a skull. some houses. a hitting stick. a shield. . .and a bunch of mush.

    I was 8-bit when 8-bit was it.

    But when I click: it no play for me.

  5. Good work, Rob. I think the limitation here is not so much the 9×9 grid, but having to use colors to represent game objects rather than the more descriptive ASCII characters, especially concerning inventory & character status. Definitely an exercise in extreme UI minimalism.

    I hadn’t seen that cfxr sound utility before; pretty cool! Of course the heavyweight champ is still Plogue’s Chipsounds VST/AU plugin (http://www.plogue.com/?page_id=43), but cfxr is definitely more quick and dirty.

    1. You could even do it at 3×3 and still have a playable exploring thing, though you can’t get much fun out of monsters and exploration until you have a few pixels to see where things are. It would be quite trivial to create a viewport like that over pretty much any roguelike and it remain playable. The problem with tiny is not the size of the playfield, but how hard it becomes to give information to the player.

      The earliest versions of this were fully procedural and 7×7. It was just more playable to have hand-designed dungeons, a guaranteed path to victory and more space to see monsters!

  6. It’s 9 by 9!!

    Just because the Array goes from 0 to 8 doesn’t mean it has a length of 8!!

    (Don’t worry though, even Kotaku can’t count and is reporting it as 8×8)

  7. Wow, excellent and very hard! Haven’t managed to complete it after an hour or so! Advice for newbs:

    1. Go to the village first
    2. The village is to the right of where you start. It’s the only red square surrounded by green.
    3. Kill all enemies in the village, then go to the pub (black windowed building above a fountain) and then get the magic from the building above.
    4. Every time you kill 2 normal enemies head back to the pub for health.
    5. The harder to kill pink enemy in the dungeon on the furthest and lowest right requires you to use magic on it, hit it, then run away. Go back to the village, get magic and health and then head back. Took me three runs!
    6. Once you’ve done all the dungeons on the lower area, the upper area opens up (with the aid of the boat I guess) There are more bad guys here, more runs to the pub needed!

    Think I’m going to leave it for a while before another go! :)

  8. You should be able to take out pink enemies with magic and a full bar; level up more before heading their way.

  9. It’s flash, so you might be clicking the wrong thing (The box) if you have flash blocked or otherwise don’t see the actual game coming up. It should appear above the instructional text on the right

  10. So do you get stronger as you go then? Cos I just went straight for the pink monster with full health and some magic and died :( (This was as a test after clearing all but the dungeon on it’s own island and the dungeon in the desert?(yellow area). I died on one of the pink monsters in the yellow dungeon. :(

  11. bah, killed everything in all the dungeons in the lower area, filled up with health, went to the dungeon with the pink beastie, used magic, hit it a couple of times, then died :( I give up. It’s great but the damage you do or have done to you by monsters seems a bit random.

  12. If you clear easy dungeons out, you should hear a few vwooooop! sounds now and again for no particular reason when killing monsters. This is your brain on levelup.

    After maybe 3 of those, you might be able to take on the pinkies. Remember to use your magic before it gets to you. Magic halves the level of the monster, and level determines how much pain it can take.

    Try shift-refreshing the page too. I’ve fixed a couple of bugs that might have made it a little harder than it should be.

  13. Ahhh so there is a levelling process! Wondered what those sounds were for. And you can use magic before yours and the enemies squares are touching? That might help a bit! Still not found the sword or the shield, I’ll keep hunting!

  14. This is really clever and cool. I grew up typing in games out of “101 BASIC Computer Games” and playing games on the TRS-80 that used the stunning 128×48 point black-and-white graphics, so there’s some serious nostalgia involved. Bravo! XD

  15. I think I managed to finish it! This is definitely a wonderful thing. I think it is a very good size as it is now, at least once you figure out where everything is. I think we’d also be delighted, though, if you decided to somehow add in secrets, easter eggs, and cheats.

    More questions, though!

    Is leveling up based on the level of the monster that you kill, or just the sheer number of monsters that you kill? In other words, If you use magic to halve the levels of monsters, do you get less experience (level up more slowly) when you kill them than if you kill them without magic? Even if it’s just 8×8 pixels, your audience cannot help but want to min-max it.

    Is there more than one non-death ending?

  16. Quite excellent. Blows away the 2 x 2 pixel Simon game I made years and years ago. Talk about eyestrain!

  17. Some of the mechanics:

    Start with 100 hit points
    Level up after killing 3,7,15 etc monsters
    Level up gives you extra 10 hp max
    health fountain restores 10 hp
    beer maxes hp

    Monsters do random damage to you based on their level. I can’t remember exactly, but it’s level*d6 or thereabouts. Brown monsters are lvl 2-4 IIRC. Pink monsters are level 6-8.

    Monsters’ lvl is also its hit points. You do 1 damage until you get the sword. Then you do 2 damage. Magic halves the monster’s lvl. Monster “dies” at lvl 0-it’s actually teleported to an inaccessible room in one of the dungeons, for some reason that escapes me.

    Shield halves the damage monsters do .

  18. One min-maxing thing I almost put is was for it to show you how many keypresses you’d made when you finish it.

  19. Finished it after the 3rd time getting to the secret island (at which stage the exit is blocked, so you can’t explore a bit and then run back to the pub) – took more times than that in total of course, maybe 9 or 10 attempts all up to find where the various items were.

    Go to the village and pub first, get some magic, then go find the boat, then look for the dungeons with the sword and shield (returning to the village for the pub and more magic as needed) and then polish off the other levels to get all the gold.

    I take it that it was getting all the gold that unlocked the “boss level”, what does the key unlock? I got the key but couldn’t quite figure out what it changed?

    Very nicely done anyway… I was expecting to to be javascript (canvas/svg) rather than Flash, but whatever floats your boat…

    Makes me want to go down the pub now.

    1. Well, I had a brief look at the source code. He did it in AS2, no classes (*groan*). So it would be fairly trivial to port this to Javascript.

  20. Originally you needed the gold to get the key, but I wasn’t happy with the ‘pay or fight’ guardian to the caves — the information abstraction problem.

    I should have done it in canvas!

  21. Interesting idea and well done! Restrictions do make creative. :) Nice sounds as well.

    There is an issue in IE9: when I use the arrow keys, my game character moves, but the browser screen moves too, so I have to scroll back up each 5 moves downwards.

    In Google Chrome, everything is fine.

  22. Fun game Rob!

    I finally beat it today. I died two or three times in the final area before working it out.

    The thing I didn’t figured out was the exact nature of the magic spell. It goes through walls, seems to be an area effect spell, and (maybe) travels in the direction you’re facing.

  23. I love this!

    The lowres graphics trigger my imagination to “fill in the blanks” – which is more than I can say for a lot of AAA-titles with their wannabe realistic visuals :D

  24. Could you make a fullscreen version? 4:3, 12:9 or 16:9. Looking forward to capture the flag mods, Pix City simulation genre, a second life for ASCII.

  25. Needs a splash screen to let you know you’ve finished. Or maybe I’m not finished. I’ve revisited everything a few times and killed everything. Is there something that lets you know you are done?

  26. there’s a splash screen to let you know you’ve finished! Exit the final dungeon. If you can’t exit it, you’ve missed a pressure pad.

  27. Magic seems to hit up to two pixels far, works in any direction, is hindered by walls and more than one monsters can be hit.

  28. SPOILERS AHEAD: How to beat the game:

    1. First, go to the town. It’s a few red dots to the east of your starting location.
    2. Once in town, head north up the middle of town. You’ll have to fight a monster to get to the PUB, which is a black dot door to one of the buildings. Entering the pub, you refresh your health.
    3. Visit the magic shop just northeast of the pub to gain MAGIC.
    4. Now you have the basic weapons you need: health restore and magic. You can start hitting the other dots on the island. Use MAGIC to make monsters weaker, and then slay them, running back to the PUB when you are running low on health. Kill as many monsters as possible to level up.
    5. Light gray squares are pressure plates to open the white squares which are gates. Always hit a pressure plate when you can, and then check to see what it opened.
    6. In one of the dungeons, you will find the BOAT, which will let you leave the first island and seek out new areas. You’ll find the SWORD and the SHIELD, which will make fighting foes easier, and the KEY which will let you into the final castle.
    7. The final castle is not a red dot – it’s a single gray dot out in the ocean. Be sure to heal and magic up before entering, because once you’re in, you can’t get out.
    8. Once inside, be very careful since you can’t go back for health. You can win without fighting the pink foes or using any magic if you’ve leveled up. Head west and then north to trigger the pressure plates that let you head east from the main entrance. Use the dungeon features on the far left of the map to save yourself a few initial attacks (i.e., lure a monster into the little alcove on the west wall, move down one, and then release it). Once you’ve opened up the east side of the castle, hug the righthand wall and curve around to the north. Hit the northern pressure plate and suck up all the gold. Then backtrack – the exit has been unlocked. Head out the door, and you see the end screen.

    Kudos, Rob, this is a great minimalist adventure.

  29. Rob, great job on this game… I was inspired by your project to create a minimalist HTML5 “weekend” game along similar lines (it’s out on http://www.mazeescape.com). I did some variants of different sizes as well, started at 3×3 and ended up with 15×15…my kids and nephew/nieces who were drafted into serving as playtesters liked the larger sizes. For younger players, a procedural version seems to be quite playable as they like to re-play a lot.. I started with a hand-crafted maze and went procedural. Also feedback I got from my 4 yr old made me also incorporate more HUD notification when important items like the sword had been acquired. Anyway, an interesting project that helped learn a few things about HTML 5 and get kids involved with programming… worthwhile time spent!

  30. Goddammit, it’s 9×9 pixels – 9×9!

    Now if you’ll excuse me I have to make sure the items on my desk are orthogonal to each other. 

Comments are closed.