“The [weirdest riddle game on the internet.]”
What is this thing?
Okay, so this is a weird one, but I promise it is worth it: “E.B.O.N.Y.” is not a new or even a well-known game, it is more of a deep ancient relic of the internet that I found almost ten years ago, and it is very dear to me. I do not expect anybody that reads this article to know about it, especially as it was taken down from the internet for a while. It is the Necronomicon of games.
Genre-wise, “E.B.O.N.Y.” is a browser-based riddle game. Those titles typically consist of multiple levels, each of them with a clue and a password you need to figure out, and usually input using the website’s URL. “E.B.O.N.Y.” describes itself as the “weirdest” of them, and I do not believe that to be an understatement. How complex and how immersive it is for just a few HTML pages linked by passwords, and how incredibly mind-blowing the things are which you have to do to solve the riddles, how outside the box you have to think… It is something extraordinary.
The depth of the abyss
So, I played this game a long time ago, as a teenager, and got pretty much obsessed with it. With a friend, we worked together to discuss the clues and crack the levels. Every level usually has an image, some text, and some haunting background music. As simple and abstract as both the images and the music tend to be, the atmosphere and vibe is extremely palpable and works so well with this feeling of opening a dark crypt or reading a forbidden book. I even made an effort to document everything we found, which is a good idea given the two craziest mechanics that “E.B.O.N.Y.” features: Branching paths, and characters you can talk to.
Branching paths start simple enough. For example, level eleven has two solutions, taking you to two different level twelves, and then it collapses again into a single path at level seventeen. Later on, though, you will be juggling four or five open paths at once, and that is such a blessing when the levels are much harder, because you might need to let a level rest for a bit, but you need to have a ‘map’ of some sorts, given that the only way to ‘save’ your progress is to remember or write down the URLs of the levels. Drawing the map is part of the fun! I have mine done in Microsoft Excel and I am extremely proud of it.
The concept of characters is so wild. As soon as you reach level nine, you will meet Ziggy. Through the URL itself, you can input words and see if Ziggy has anything to say about them. You can try “Ebony”, or “Aneninen” and get some info, but remember to save this URL. Once you learn the name of other characters, you can go back there and ask him about them. The amount of text is absolutely stunning, and the lore is so extremely deep for a game that is just a bunch of riddles in pure HTML.
I do not want to spoil too much, but everything including the riddles is extremely ingenious. You will be messing with everything. The game will throw you the most curved balls ever. You will be using Google a lot. The most memorable example I use to tell people how crazy it is, is that there is a level where you have to use Google Maps to chase someone around the streets of Amsterdam. But the themes, angles and tools you need to use are so varied that you need to be open-minded and ready for anything. Also, whenever you figure a difficult level out on your own, you will feel so smart – smart in a way that not many games can provide.
If you play…
If you start to play this game, or want to talk about it, please contact me on Twitter at @Raindrinker_dev. I would love to slightly unearth this arcane relic of a game and in case you are getting stuck, I might be able to help you out with the map I made. However, I did not finish it. I reached some of the few ‘temporary ends’ that existed back when I played it, and some levels were added after I stopped, but I was stuck in many places. My name was one of the few names that were written in the Hall of Fame for a while, but has since been removed.
There are ancient forums where people discussed the levels, but the existence as well as quality of the hints and solutions decrease the further you dive into “E.B.O.N.Y.”. All these forums are now extremely dead, like ghost cities or abandoned ruins, full of confused people lost in the same way you are lost now. I see that as part of the appeal. So please, do not play “E.B.O.N.Y.” without contacting me on Twitter!
If enough people do, I can make a small Discord server or something like that and we can resurrect this ancient corpse of a game. There is nothing I would enjoy more.
…Okay, while writing the article I just found out there actually is an alive Discord community for the game. I would have never guessed! I want to thank them so much for keeping the flame burning and being super welcoming when I came back to the game after so long. I will go back into it and try to solve the levels Aneninen added after I left. If you want to join me on this marvelous journey, please do so. [PLAY]