Ord is one of those games we purchased on a whim. It was on sale, and the premise was so beautifully simple that we couldn’t say no. The concept? It’s a story told three words at a time.
Needless to say, we were intrigued.
What it turned into was a charming little game that takes minimalizm to a whole new level. It is essentially a choose your own adventure game, but you are only given one word to prompt your next action. Conversely, the actions you can choose from are also limited to one word.
Now, I can hear you thinking “But if it’s only one word, how do I know what I’m really picking?” The answer is “You don’t, like, at all”, and that’s the fun of the game.
Let’s say the game prompts you with the word “Tree.” Your options in response are “Hug” or “Sit.” This one seems straight forward, and both make sense. You either sit below the tree or you hug it.
Each response will give you a single word as a reaction. If you choose “Hug” you get the word “Hippy,” and if you choose the word “Sit” you get the word “Sleep.” However things aren’t always so cut and dry, and most decisions will lead to your death if handled improperly.
Not the tree one, though. That one’s pretty safe.
A Trope-ical Storm
One of the reasons that Ord. works is that it understands what it can and cannot do with its three-word formatting. Often, that means leaning into familiar tropes, including evil warlocks and frog princesses. This makes it more startling and hilarious when they subvert your expectations by forcing you to pull on a button or eat dirt to survive the encounter.
Because it leans into the tropes that we know so well, Ord. isn’t going to win any storytelling awards. The story you ultimately end up with on any pass through the game is pretty two-dimensional. But that’s not really the point.
Because Ord. is so simplistic, it allows you to fill in the world and define the story for yourself. Plain white words on a black background mean that when you are given the word “Robot,” it’s up to you to decide what kind of robot you’re supposed to be looking at. If you choose to “Approach” the robot and get stabbed, well, now you know the robot has a knife, so you can add that to your mental picture for next time. Whether you can remember that, though, is another story. I’ve met my “End” many times from choosing a word that has already caused my death.
A Series of Adventures
As unique as the concept of Ord. is, as with any choose-your-own adventure style book or game, there comes a point when playing is more a game of memory than choice. You want to get to the ending, so it’s up to you to remember that wading through the river only gets you wet while jumping over the river leads to…
Around this time, it would be easy for Ord. to get a little stale. One of the features that gives Ord a little more staying power is that it has multiple stories you can choose from. I’ve only played through a couple, but each has multiple endings, which means that you can play through them more than once before you feel like you’ve seen everything a story has to offer.
Additionally, you don’t always have the same options at the same times. For example, in the first story, you always wake up to your alarm and have the choice to snooze or wake up. However, once you start making your choices, there are branching paths the game can take, and it doesn’t follow the same route every time.
The result is that Ord. feels less like a single choose-your-own adventure book and more like a series of choose-your-own adventure stories written by the same author.
Ord.: Worth the Price of Admission
While it is probably the most simple video game I’ve ever played, Ord. brought a smile to my face, and sometimes an incredulous yell as I died because I did something that was obviously going to kill me.
I’m giving it a “Simple” score of 7/10 for being exactly what it is: a quaint game that you can either “Ignore” or “Play”.