If there's a problem with even a miniscule component of a device with a lot of moving parts (a clock, a Rube Goldberg machine, your grandmother, etc.), it's a safe bet the whole thing will stop working.
Same thing happens in a video game. If floors stop acting like floors and decide instead to swallow your character's legs up to knee-level, the whole game grinds to a halt.
For the most part, glitches suck. They can render entire levels – and sometimes the entire game – unplayable. Other times, like in the case of "Gears of War 2," multiplayer (which has more glitches than gameplay) savvy players with nothing better to do find ways to exploit the glitches, and former coding mistakes become an integral part of the game.
That's the premise behind this week's title, the aptly named "Shit Game."
The graphics look like they were doodled in MS Paint by a 3-year-old with muscle spasms. The level design is, in a word, haphazard and, in several, completely frickin' awful. The game's soundtrack is packed with muddled, digital renditions of songs whose artists haven't been culturally relevant in over a decade.
On that note, was Smashmouth ever culturally relevant?
And, finally, the game mechanics are more dysfunctional than the average American family – which is just what developer Mark Johns was going for.
"‘Shit Game' was really a fun exercise in making a terrible, terrible game, with as many clichés in the indie game scene as I could think of," Johns said in an interview with Indiegames.com. "Part of the idea was to make a glitchy game where the glitches became gameplay elements that you had to master."
Among the long list of flaws players twist to their advantage are poor hit detection, bewildering physics and gravity that does whatever it damn well pleases.
Of course, there's an underlying method to the game's madness. Once the games many, sundry layers of "WTF" are peeled back, there are some pretty interesting puzzles present.
For example, if you jump toward a platform but don't land on top of it, you get stuck inside it and float to the top for some reason. Among other things, this allows you to climb walls and stick to surfaces like your suit is custom-tailored out of fly paper. And if you venture off the screen, you wind up in an entirely different part of the level, allowing you to bypass some tricky obstacles.
The game isn't too long (I got through it in about 30 minutes), but that's just the right length. "Shit Game" has a few brilliant flashes of self-parody and then has the good sense to end before you get sick of it. And before you start to feel sorry for the guy who had to program it.
With all the delusional affection of a mother doting over her child's latest Crayola abomination, anybody who's ever played a terrible game will find something to love in "Shit Game."