I saw a bunch of people positively mentioning The Barnacle Goose Experiment on Twitter at the end of last year, so I gave it a try. I ran into a game breaking bug, so I stopped playing while waiting for that bug to be fixed; but playing it did remind me that I like clicker games. And somebody pointed me at Crank while I was waiting, so I gave that a try.


And it’s okay? Good enough that I was glad to have played it; there’s the loop that I like, of starting with one resource that requires clicking, then improving and automating the production of it, then being able to produce other resources, and looping through that repeatedly, all the while balancing different kinds of efficiency improvements.

And Crank also has its own bit of special sauce: you’re traveling through space, exploring solar systems and fighting enemies.

Having said that, it’s not great. There weren’t all that many different loops of stuff to do, and I ran out of interesting decisions while I still had a good amount of exploring to do in the star map. And the exploring in the star map isn’t all that interesting: it’s nice as an ingredient of the game, but if it’s the only thing you have to do, it gets boring.

I’m still happy to have played Crank: it was pleasant enough for most of my time with the game, and it didn’t take me all that long to make it through the whole game. And it is a genre that I enjoy, after all, so even a game that doesn’t show me anything unexpected in the genre is still fun.


The Barnacle Goose Experiment (which I did finish, once the aforementioned bug was fixed) is quite a bit more unusual. You start off with your base material that you can get via clicking (three of them instead of one of them, this time); and then you create more items by mixing your existing items. So it has a much, much wider range of resources than most clicker games, but also a much, much smaller set of production loops for the individual resources.

Each resource can be made from other resources via recipes (generally multiple recipes), and also many resources automatically produce other resources (I can’t remember if this is a real example or not, but stuff like cats automatically produce hair periodically). And also there are locations that speed up the production of some classes of resources, and there’s a mechanism that lets you speed up the different types of automatic production.

Typing that up, it sounds like a decent amount of loops? But, when I played it, honestly the location mechanism and the speed up mechanism just didn’t matter. I think what’s going on there is that it’s just not the sort of game where you need exponential growth of resources: it’s not like you start off using 10 of a resource to make an item, then 100 of that resource, then 1000 of that resource. Instead, the recipes all take (I think) at most four of any given resource, and by far the common case is that they take one or two of the resources that are part of the recipe, and a recipe typically requires two to four resources in total.


So Barnacle Goose is really about the loop of discovering a recipe that leads to a new resource, then trying to find as many recipes as you can that use that new resource, seeing what resources are produced by those recipes, and repeating. There’s other stuff in there (items to wear, music you can play, letters you can read), but that’s the core of it.

Which, unlike Crank, really is a new take on the genre. (Or at least new to me, I don’t claim to have an exhaustive knowledge of the genre!) But, it turns out, I didn’t find this amount of breadth to be as satisfying as having a smaller number of well-designed loops that get your hands dirty with exponential growth. I’m happy to have played it, though, it was pleasant enough and it’s always good to see something new.


Ultimately, I think the lesson here is that what I really want is more Kittens Game. So I’ve started it over again from scratch (and I’m trying out the app version instead of the in-browser version); hopefully I’ll manage to avoid having it be a constant tax on my attention for the next year…

(And maybe the other lesson here is that I should try experimenting with one of these games myself? If anybody has a good theme idea for a clicker game, let me know!)

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