(CW: Implied Cannibalism, Themes of Animal Cruelty)

It is astoundingly rare that I find a gameplay loop this compelling in any title, commercial or otherwise, yet Dan Mullins has managed to deliver something so mouth-wateringly enticing that it’s impossible to resist.

Known for Pony Island, Mullins is an experimental game designer that produces juicy Ludum Dare entries that push the boundaries of presentation and remind us what Game Jams should strive to accomplish.

I have a rather personal fondness for the rising tension present in any good narrative revolving around gambling, as a fictional device it’s readily available in almost any scenario and extremely powerful for creating a contrast between characters. Mullins clearly understands this and masterfully crafts a devious scenario between a plane crash survivor in the wilderness and a terrifying huntsman who wagers up sustenance in exchange for the intrepid survivor’s life.

The polish brought with the second post-jam revision receives a warm welcome, doing the concept justice as a powerful prototype of an amazing concept. While I’m not the biggest fan of card games, the presentation and tight delivery of mechanisms kept me coming back over and over to sharpen my wit. With a classical “Easy to learn, hard to master” flow, I highly advise you to simply take ten minutes of your day and plunge into it head-first. The game’s sublimely seamless tutorial serves up the well-crafted narrative and has you leveraging your tactical senses in no time.

My only frustration with the game is how starved I am for more, and frankly, a commercial or tabletop release. Multiplayer would be unbelievably complementary to the experience and I find myself pining for the possibilities of what this game could be in the future. But enough praise, give it a go!

Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice