Many LD26 games chose to incorporate the theme of Minimalism by being visually simple. Pyramid was visually simple as a consequence of being minimalist. Burgess chose to strip away the unnecessary elements of a rogue-like, and left us with a stunning piece of work. I will dwell on the degree to which Burgess hit the theme.
Minimalism presents something similar to prototype. I think that word has a bit of baggage: evoking an incomplete or fragile ‘first try’ that is a basis for greater efforts. Prototypes aren’t just a quick slap job, they must also be the minimal viable product. That’s why projects start as prototypes, but it is not to say that we can’t also start with something bigger and then shave it down to a prototype. This is how I understood the LD26 theme, and I think that Burgess really expressed it well in Pyramid.
Pyramid’s levels are squares of randomly generated passages; the hero’s vision is limited, so when the levels start to get really big it starts to feel really murky. If Pyramid’s levels didn’t grow, we wouldn’t understand the name. If Pyramid were called another name, we wouldn’t understand why the levels grow. Remove either element and what remains doesn’t make sense. Very little is embellished in Pyramid; there is very little excess. That’s not to say there isn’t anything left that could still be stripped away: burgess named things. Numbers appear on the screen to indicate the damage the hero deals or takes: this is enough to express the gradual powering up of the hero. Burgess, however, chose to name the different power levels. For example, in Pyramid “10” is called “Imperious Axe of Truth”. The monsters are also named.
In terms of how the game plays: it is smooth and fun. The game teaches us all the necessary mechanics in the first 3 levels, and then just gets tougher and tougher. The only thing that is left to us to discover is how combat works. I found out around level 12 that if you touch an enemy you attack it. That’s not all though: unlike a run-of-the-mill rogue-like, it is possible to dance with enemies and outwit them. For me this is great: the game is not just a resource management slog, it involves patience and wit as well.
The game goes on forever, but I’ve been assured that level 48 is the last time any new content is introduced.