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Arctic Eggs Is A Beautiful Game About Flipping Eggs At The End Of The World

I was not expecting an egg flipping simulator to be one of the funniest games of the year, but Arctic Eggs goes above and beyond expectations.

A woman saying "I would like an egg"

Me too. Credit: The Water Museum

There is a recurring question in Arctic Eggs, asked by several characters, and repeated almost like a koan: “Do you think you can you fry eggs on top of Mount Everest?” Sometimes the answer is practical, discussing the thermodynamics of the act. Other times the answer is social or existential, addressing the potential motivations behind someone attempting the act. But uniformly the responses are cryptic, haunting, and hilarious, which are not descriptors you would anticipate about a game whose primary verb is frying eggs. 

A balanced breakfast. Credit: The Water Museum

Arctic Eggs is a low-poly, sci-fi cooking simulator. I would throw in the term cyberpunk as well, but in the original bleak sense of the genre, as the last few years have not been too kind to that descriptor. The backdrop is Antarctica in 2091, in a dire city that looks almost post-Soviet. Following your attempted escape from this place, the ruler of the area, known as The Saint Of Six Stomachs, had stripped you of your main functions, reducing you to a “Poultry Peddler” whose only abilities are to walk and cook. You may be granted your freedom, but only if you cook your way to the top, feeding 27 hungry people and potentially gaining an audience with the Saint themselves.

Moments of kindness. Credit: The Water Museum

Arctic Eggs is a fairly simple game mechanically. You control a frying pan, a low poly version of a T-fal that you may own now, because nonstick pans disintegrate after 2-3 years so it doesn’t make sense to buy anything but the budget option. You tilt the pan back and forth by moving the mouse, and increase or decrease the sensitivity with the mouse scroll. Heat is generated by moving the pan, and you must cook items evenly on all sides by flipping them with a quick wrist flick. 

My boy can work a grill. Credit: The Water Museum

The game starts you off with eggs, but as you progress between hungry people, new food and non-food items are introduced, each with their own challenging behaviors, from pufferfish that behave like living basketballs to cigarettes that act like slowly burning timers and are added exclusively for flavor. As far as I can tell, this is one of the few games that makes you cook eggs alongside live rifle rounds. The game has multiple difficulty settings, but the only difference is the depth of the pan’s lip, with a wok being easy, and a crepe pan being hard.

This is more or less how I feel all the time. Credit: The Water Museum

Different meals are requested by different NPCs, and this is where the mood and writing in Arctic Eggs shines. Each of the character models is rendered with rough and undulating skin, like you’re playing a PC game from 1999 while dosed substantially. It’s deep fried Deus Ex. The characters themselves speak in beguiling and brusque language, oftentimes with intentional and self-correcting typos. I found myself laughing hysterically multiple times less because of jokes and more because of how sentences are phrased. 

That's so sweet of you. Credit: The Water Museum

The topics are broad. A man expresses regrets wasting his 20s raising a stingray. Another espouses the benefits of drinking early because it’s good to get your crying done before it’s dark.  Some motifs repeat, like flamingos, dolphins, cigarettes, and having a Polish girlfriend. And then you get these beautiful, eerie moments of sadness and ennui. In one scene, a fisherman describes how his son is slowly replacing every organ in his body mechanically. He does not dwell over the loss of self, as he can recognize his son despite being mechanically replaced as well, but he is spending his remaining days savoring food because they’re taking his tongue next.

There are many games that Arctic Eggs reminds me of, but only in its parts. It is funny and abrasive like Cruelty Squad, features haunting vignettes with characters like NieR: Automata, and it’s mechanically absurd like QWOP or Katamari Damacy. But to the game’s credit, none of those comparisons alone capture the totality. Like the taste of an egg, a fish, and a cigarette fried in the same pan, Arctic Eggs has an unforgettable flavor unlike anything else. And it achieves this by sandwiching slivers of absurdity and sadness between slabs of the most absurd gameplay possible. These little scenes, unconcerned with how they would break the larger reality of the world they populate, are more affecting than writing in much larger games, in part because they are cryptic and leave the player to stew in their potential significance. 

Egg question. Credit: The Water Museum

Can you fry eggs on top of Mount Everest? The game has an answer, but I can’t claim to know personally. I do know that it’s a funny thing to think about for a few hours, a terse hypothetical and a wonderful starting off point to one of the funniest and most memorable indie games I’ve played this year. And that’s high praise indeed given the competition.

Arctic Eggs is available now on Steam. The (very good) soundtrack is on Bandcamp.

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