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Someone Made A Video Game Where You Play As Sisyphus

Sometimes, you just can’t win. Sisyphus is an absurdist game by George Prosser that recreates the well known Greek myth into a frustrating button masher. It’s this week’s Indie Pick.

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In Greek myth, Sisyphus was a cruel king who cheated death by trapping Thanatos in chains. As punishment for his crime, he was made to push a massive boulder uphill for eternity. Sisyphus is a one button game about pushing a boulder. Mash the spacebar as much as you can and see how high you can go. Mess up and you’ll slide all the way back to the bottom.

Sisyphus feels right at home next to games like Zoe Quinn’s Waiting For Godot or Kian Bashiri’s You Have To Burn The Rope. The former is a never-ending loading screen while the latter is a game where the only way to win is to burn a rope that drops a chandelier that kills the boss. These absurdist games often exaggerate their mechanics for effect. Sisyphus takes a renowned story and basically turned it into a Mario Party mini-game. Somewhere, an ancient poet is rolling in his gave.

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“But there’s no win state,” his ancient corpse mutters in the void.

I guess we just push the damn boulder. If we keep pushing, perhaps the struggle itself will fill our hearts with happiness. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a high score. You can play Sisyphus on PC and Mac.

Former Senior Writer and Critic at Kotaku.

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DISCUSSION

I remember there was a series of web/flash games, around 2010 I think, that focused on Greek legends such as Sisyphus or Orpheus. I seem to recall they were mostly black and white. I think the Sisyphus game had you tap two characters on the keyboard as fast as you could to push the rock up the hill, but as you neared got higher, you had to tap faster (you could never make it to the top). The Orpheus/Eurydice game was a simple, short platformer; going in to the underworld was as normal, once you reached Eurydice, you could no longer turn right (had to platform only to the left) otherwise Eurydice would disappear/die/turn into a specter. And of course, the final jump to leave the gates of the underworld *required* that you very briefly hit the right arrow key ... :(