If you spent a portion of the 90s going cross-eyed to look at Magic Eye 3D pictures of dolphins, elephants, and sailboats emerging from fields of noise, you might enjoy the new platformer from indie developer Daniel Linssen. It’s called Stereogram, because it’s made of moving stereograms. Let your eyes go slack and gaze into the distance of an optical illusion as you jump around pretty little Magic Eye levels in this platformer which reminds me of VVVVVV.
Stereogram (the game) is a platformer where you run and leap across 100 connected screens (‘rooms’), jumping and wall-sliding, riding elevators and bouncing off doodads and such. It seems like it introduces more movement abilities as it goes, though I’ve not reached the end yet because I need to keep resting my eyes. Because, you know, if you look at the game normally, you’ll only see two separate little screens of incomprehensible shifting noise.
Stereograms are an optical illusion which encodes two similar-but-different 2D images with cues that, if you look at the pictures in the right way, will trick your brain into seeing a third screen with the actual image and the appearance of 3D depth. You need to gaze through the images, kind of, not actually looking at them, which creates the illusion of a third image hovering between the two with the 3D image. (For reference, the Magic Eye images so popular in newspapers and coffee table books are technically autostereograms, using only a single image.)
While my eyes don’t work at all with VR goggles or 3D movies, stereograms are weirdly easy for me. Moving stereograms can be a lot to look at so I appreciate that the view here is fixed, with each room entirely filling the screen, and the camera not moving as you move. It’s pretty easy to lock your eyes onto a room and pay attention to the moving parts.
The color palettes of the noise patterns are very pleasing and moody, looking like animated textures rather than just noise. The little details like falling leaves and streaking raindrops are very nicely done too. For a difficult medium, it looks great.
Stereogram is available pay-what-you-want (with no minimum) from Itch.io for Windows.
It’s a shame that the game doesn’t have saves, so you can’t close it and come back later. You can mute the music and leave it running in the background, but my eyes feel a bit blown-out after playing it at stops and starts all morning.
You might also fancy checking out Quake II AbSIRD, a mod which renders Id Software’s FPS in stereogram 3D. Fast-moving first-person stereograms are a mighty bit of eyemurder, mind.