Cozy flash games

Adobe Flash fueled my generation’s creativity. It was a platform for animators to make offbeat, low-cost and ambitious short movies and games. Its limitations, like a low ceiling for processing power or graphics, became advantages: You could play flash games at school or on home computers not beefy enough to play traditional studio games.

With the retirement of Flash inevitable, I wanted to list some of my favorite flash games. But more than just being entertaining, there’s a coziness factor to Flash, too. One plays a flash game in a small window on a 2006-era webpage. The sound effects, music, animation, and coding in these games often all come from hobbyist creatives pooling their efforts together, almost always for no pay. So these Flash games, more than just being entertaining, are perfect for a rainy day.


Dust, or Powder Game, highlights the brilliance of Flash programming: You take a simple concept (a literal sandbox game where you can spawn in different materials that react with each other), build a functional physics system around it, and let the player make their own fun.

Dust is like a physicist’s playground. A layer of SEED dropped onto POWDER will generate wood if hit with WATER. If you cover those procedural generated trees in OIL and drop some THUNDER on top, you’ll start a fire that quickly burns through the wood and kicks up wind, tossing more powder and seed around and growing wood elsewhere.

Or you could reproduce a gas engine by building a tank of NITRO and running a thin line of PUMP from it into a tiny chamber with a small TORCH square that ignites the individual particles. The ensuing explosion kicks up wind energy that you can use in some other contraption.

You could also throw a ton of OIL, LAVA and VIRUS together, which is pretty fun, or drop a bunch of THUNDER into a pool of WATER filled with FISH.

Like all of the Dan-Ball games, Dust’s simple, retro approach to graphics belies an inquisitive, playful approach to making games and simulations. It strikes that difficult “fun but sort of educational” tone that so many other games aspire to, and lets you have fun at whatever level of maniacal interest you put into it.

As a kicker, here’s a functioning nuclear generator someone made in Dust.

Level Up!

Thematically, it’s like the grandfather of Undertale. In term of gameplay, it’s somewhere between a platformer and an RPG. And in the realm of “needing-a-sequelness,” well… let’s just say we’ve all been waiting 10 years.

“Level Up! a game about personal growth” puts you in the role of “The Girl,” who spends her days collecting gems, talking to her weird ghost neighbors, getting to know a strange boy who fell from the sky and broke her fence, and fending off a terrible nightmare that afflicts her every night.

All of your abilities, like running, jumping and even sleeping improve the more you practice them. But along with your memories, they’re reduced back to 0 every morning — all you retain from day to day is your gems and special abilities. So each day is a mad dash to bring your skills back up, collect treasures, explore a bit more of the world and try to find out what’s behind your nocturnal terrors.

The story is short but very sweet, with a cute romance plot, existential horror at the thought of dying each night, and quirky NPCs that tell bad puns and ask for your help. Also, the music — while it’s only one repeating track — is quite good.

Scale of the Universe 2:

While it’s arguable whether this counts as a ‘game,’ Scale of The Universe is another fantastic Flash to explore for science fans and anyone into the vastness of space. (I’m beginning to realize just how much potential Flash has, and had, as an educational tool.)

The game starts you off at Human scale but gives you the power to zoom in or out; way, way, way in or out, to the size of 10^-35 (where you’ll pass strings and Neutrinos) or up to 10^27, where everything fades into the ceaseless static of the estimated size of the entire universe.

You can even give each element in the game a click for a specific size and more description.

Did you know a human egg is about the size of a dust mite, or a pixel on your computer screen? Or that a redwood tree is about as long and wide as the International Space Station? How about this: If you lined up two Great Walls of China, you could completely circle Pluto with them. A Minecraft world is about the size of Neptune, and VY Canis Majoris (This is the second time I’ve lusted over this damn star) is bigger than the orbits of all of our solar system’s interior, rocky planets!

Oops. I started writing this review two hours ago.

There are so many more Flash games and movies I’d love to mention — the sheer volume of art that the medium has spawned is dizzying — but I’ll leave them for another time. These are more than enough to whet anyone’s appetite.

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