Indie game Kids is about pushing, pulling, and squeezing bodies into holes and tubes.
Developed by artist Michael Frei and programmer Mario von Rickenbach, Kids is a series of physics mini-games about tiny little people. You can push them into holes, squeeze them through fleshy tubes and guide them as they swim through a dark void by clicking on the screen. The game is also about the point at which a series of bodies becomes a crowd.
As I played Kids, over time, I found it got easier to recognise the point at which a series of people became its own entity. Sometimes the screen would fill up with bodies to the point that thinking of them as individuals didn’t make sense. I realised at a certain point that I was no longer envisioning myself as controlling each individual person, but rather a large mass of bodies that had become its own thing. At one point, I had to guide a stream of people away from a hole by clicking on each one of them, and I realised that the stream of people just looked like a continuous river that would never end—the difference between a water droplet and rainstorm.
Kids takes around half an hour to play in full. In that time, it takes you through different variations on the same scenarios. First, you squeeze a body through one intestine, and then it splits off into two, and then three. There isn’t much to this game, but by keeping things simple, Kids never gets too convoluted or overly complicated. You rely on the same mechanics to get through every tiny puzzle in the game, and each puzzle is short enough that it doesn’t get frustrating.
Kids’ animation is fluid and beautiful in stark black and white, and the sparse music and sound design creates a melancholy atmosphere as you push people into a massive hole. What I’ll remember for a long time is the pitter-patter of footsteps in this game. At first, these light taps echo in the void, until they become an avalanche.