The first thing you hear when you boot up Sometimes You Die on your iPhone is a robotic voice saying, "What are you doing? You would say, 'I am playing a game.'" In any other context, the voice would be right, but right now, you're doing something more than just playing a simple iOS platformer.
In Sometimes You Die, you control a tiny black cube through a series of levels. There are pits, spikes, and spinning blades for you to navigate as you try to reach the exit. The twist here is that when you die, your little square corpse stays where it is when you revive. You can use your previous squares to traverse gaps or as stepping stools for you to jump onto. Sometimes, you have to die.
The levels can be completed in anywhere from ten seconds to a minute or more depending on the difficulty. They are beautifully designed, using only black and shades of grey to tell this story. The only white in this game is the single lightbulb that illuminates each level and whatever text is being narrated to you in each level.
The narration is what makes Sometimes You Die something that demands to be played. The game's backdrop is a huge, intimidating series of random words and each level, whatever the voice is narrating is what is highlighted. It's not a very positive game, to say the least. Playing Sometimes You Die is like having Tyler Durden telling you that you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake while playing Super Mario Bros. The narrator talks about what it means to be a game, your expectations for a typical iOS platformer, and later, taunts you in some of the most aggravating ways possible. Hell, the basic premise of the game is that you use your own corpses to complete puzzles. It's disheartening but quite profound; how many times have we all collectively killed Maro? It's incredibly meta and will really make you think about games in the way that Bioshock Infinite's ending does.
I thought the game had a sense of humor, like GLADoS had too many horse tranquilizers. This is a gamer's game, something that only someone really entrenched in video games will enjoy and appreciate. You need to know the rules before you can break them. This game breaks just about every rule of video game convention. You have a strange sense of catharsis playing this game, glad that somebody finally understands how to satirize what games are all about.
Sometimes You Die is best played on an iPhone 5 for reasons I cannot go into here for fear of spoilers, but is optimized for all recent iOS devices. At only $1.99, this game won't break the bank and you'll have something to think about for quite a while after you finish. Whether or not this game is fun is up to you, but I promise you that you've never played anything like Sometimes You Die. At the very least, you'll certainly get a kick out of its clever (yet upsetting) musings about video games. As the game comes to a close and fulfills its promise, you'll wish that more games were made like this.
Sometimes You Die is available on the iOS App Store here.