Chris Handy’s first Pack O Game has been something of a wild ride, ranging from delightful highs to more than one stretch of tedium. Much like a bus journey, perhaps? Nah, not really, as anyone who’s ever ridden a Greyhound across any significant distance can attest. There comes a point of self-annihilation, usually when the Great Plains stretch out before ye, where you come to comprehend that nothing you have ever experienced has occurred beyond the inverted reflection of light against your retinas, the imposed firing of nerve endings or vibrating cochlea. It’s a moment of tremendous enlightenment, if perchance you permit it to be. Otherwise it might consume you, as only falling upward into the black night sky could do.
Anyway, BUS is a rather good conclusion to the Pack O Game!
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with word games. Raised from birth to compete in Scrabble, I can identify all the best two- and three-letter words. I’m the guy you accuse of cheating when playing online. But I’m not cheating. It’s just that I’m a robot with a singular purpose, and that purpose is to spell QUICHES on a triple-word score.
With that level of programming rattling around my head, you’d think SHH would be my sort of thing. So let’s talk.
Thus far, the best titles in the small-as-a-pack-of-gum Pack O Games — which I only just now realize is a very, very light pun — have navigated the sweet spot between simple and too simple. By presenting a slender set of rules that still gives everyone some latitude in how to behave, games like HUE and GEM seem deeper than their ninety-second explanation would imply, generating tension through the guesswork of who’s in the lead and how to reel them back in.
FLY, on the other hand, is the simplest of the lot. But does that push it into TKO territory?
At some point, I really ought to acknowledge that each of the titles in the Pack O Games consists of only three letters. Speaking as a wordsmith, that alone is an achievement. I picture Chris Handy lying awake at night, struggling to name his latest creation. “GNT? RBY? NYX? DMN?” He furiously blots out the combinations of letters that fill his notepad, then calls out to his wife, rousing her from her sleep. “What’s another word for a bijou?” he asks, wiping away the perspiration on his forehead with the back of his hand.
Meanwhile, GEM is a game about the high-powered world of diamond auctioning.
Easily one of the coolest things about Chris Handy’s Pack O Game has nothing to do with the fact that it’s eight games in one handy-dandy carrying case. Nor that the reception was warm enough to warrant a sequel set. Nor that each of the games has a cutesy three-letter title. Blah blah blah.
No, the coolest thing is that each of these games is literally the size of a pack of gum. And not one of those deluxe gum silos or gum diskettes, or wherever else you commercial teenagers with your ice breath and lack of shirts and easy sex are storing your gum. Rather, one of those tiny cardboard gum boxes that smells of spearmint and gets lost between the cushions. That’s where my real interest lies.
Today, we’re inspecting the opening salvo of the first Pack O Game. Meet HUE.