By Joseph Nichols, Staff Writer
Cool Math Games was the ultimate survival tool for students to pass time in their classes throughout grade school and high school. The seemingly educational name was enough to fool firewalls and school administrators from placing it on the blocked website list. While our generation has mostly moved on (except for the occasional Smith Scholar playing Papa’s Pizzeria), a diamond in the rough game named Amidst the Sky might leave you with more than just a few minutes of wasted class time.
Amidst the Sky is an indie web browser game made by Dutch game developer Casper van Dommelen. Although the game can be played on the Cool Math Games website, van Dommelen created it independently.
“It’s fun to design levels and I also make them for myself. I like these kinds of games… so I just make more of them,” van Dommelen said.
A platforming game by design, Amidst the Sky allows players to begin the game by jumping across rocks and floating islands before entering mysterious temple ruins. A score begins as players make their way through the ruins before eventually, access to the world is achieved. This is where the scale of the game becomes apparent: the further you explore, the more temple ruins and concealed buildings become unlocked.
As the title suggests, the cloaked avatar you control is quite literally amidst the sky. Players utilize clouds and air ducts, traveling to distant islands and temples. The world-building and endgame in Amidst the Sky both place prominence on the exploration of the uncharted and on the self.
“Those themes most certainly form a strong focus of the game, mostly exploration… it’s all about the world and how the player experiences it,” van Dommelen said.
Throughout the entirety of the game, there is an emphasis on the beauty of the natural world paired with the player’s individual journey. In both trekking to faraway temple ruins and the eventual completion of the game, players are invited to partake in a personal odyssey both literally and figuratively.
As players continue to traverse through the sky and onto floating islands, they fall frequently. For a platforming game, this is a necessity. However, while you are bound to fall, Amidst the Sky shows that you are not always bound to get back up.
Falling in this game, especially towards the end, can erase a solid 10 or 15 minutes of mental focus and fortitude. However, much like human existence, it’s not about how you fall, but rather how and why you get back up again. This is the reason for this game’s beauty and covert truth: it’s a commentary on the human experience.
In the game, frustrations are bound to mount during the final temple as falling is very common, wiping progress with even the slightest blunder. However, players have no obligation to finish the game. In regards to the player within the game, van Dommelen stated, “You’re quite insignificant in respect to the world: nature moves on without you, there’s no other human other than you. Make of that what you will.”
The world inside the game will continue whether you keep playing or not: through countless obstacles impeding your journey, life in Amidst the Sky is what you make of it.
The game is not meant to be easy and falling and restarting is more common than I’d like to admit. However, the game takes you across great distances in a way that pays homage to the beauty of the natural world.
Perhaps there’s a hint of irony that an online browser game I first found on Cool Math Games contains such sincerity. Yet, in the frantic life of the day-to-day world of a college student, I’m content knowing that there will be a second chance as long as I keep going. Maybe that, too, is beautiful.
If you’re interested in playing Amidst the Sky and van Dommelen’s other browser games that I cannot recommend highly enough, search “Ferociter itch.io” and support a game developer who crafts an eccentric yet refreshing experience with every game.