Once, when I was younger and spending the early hours of the morning crabbing off a pier overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with my father, I took a walk while the traps soaked, found a small, isolated cut of shore, and started skipping stones. At first, I was rubbish, getting only two skips or ker-plunking the rock on the first toss, but after enough practice and searching for the smoothest, most flat rocks this side of New Jersey, I was hitting bounce streaks of five or more. Which, if you didn’t know, is extremely satisfying. There’s something magical about seeing such a heavy thing dance across the water like it’s flying with the wind before it loses steam and descends into the watery unknown.
Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes is not actually a stone-skipping simulator, though somebody out there should totally make that game. Actually, I think there was one mini-game in Wii Sports Resort that had you side-slicing rocks (or discs?) across a lake or through rings for points, but even with the updated Wii MotionPlus controller it was still tricky, and I had to constantly remind myself to not let go of the controller when performing the throwing motion. Instead, Alan Hazelden‘s on-the-surface simple puzzle game is about a sailor who has washed ashore and needs materials to fix his ship. In order to find these essentials, you’ll need to skip stones (or push rocks as I saw it) across the water to manipulate lily pads and reach other chunks of land. Sounds easy, but let me assure you it is not; I got no further than the fourth screen before my brain hurt.
Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes did not magically appear out of thin air. Hazelden appears to be a rather prolific independent developer, and an earlier game of his called Mirror Isles looks nearly identical to his latest creation. Except there’s a hypnotic looping soundtrack and has you swapping places with a second character via teleporting mirrors to maneuver around the various islands. It seems just as deceptively difficult. The minimalist graphics vibe is fine, as it is really the puzzles that stand out as the things to pay attention to. You can hit “Z” to undo your last step or “R” to reset to the last checkpoint, and I hit these keys a great number of times.
Give it a go. Maybe you’ll get farther then the fourth screen. Perhaps the fifth screen is the last and where all the ship materials are, or maybe it just gets more punishing from there. At the very least, open Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes in your browser and tab away to do whatever it is you actually do during your time in front of the computer, that way you can work, but listen to the soothing, calming tones of ocean waves lapping at sandy shores. I’ve had it going the entire time I wrote this blog post.