With triple-A video games getting closer and closer to photorealistic graphics, it’s hard to imagine a time when a few thousand monochrome pixels was considered cutting-edge. However, despite their lack of fancy graphics, retro video game fans know that a lot of fantastic games were created with those limitations. Clearly, graphics do not a good game make.
To push that ideal to its limits, David Johnson-Davies of Technoblogy has created a game called Secret Maze that is played with a display consisting of just four LEDs. Secret Maze is built on a custom PCB that uses an ATtiny85 for logic, and a coin cell battery for power. Four buttons provide input, and a piezo buzzer is the sum of the sound output.
The game itself is a maze with walls on 1–3 sides at each point. The LEDs represent a wall blocking the path in that direction, and pushing a button allows you to move forward if there isn’t a wall in the way. The challenge of the game is building a map of the maze in your mind, so that you can backtrack and explore new paths if you get to a dead end. A sleep function is built-in, so the game will automatically power down if a button isn’t pushed for 30 seconds.
What’s really great about this project is that it proves that a fun and challenging game can be made with extremely limited hardware. As new games become increasingly more complex, developers can learn something from Johnson-Davies’ ability to create a game with so little. If you want to build your own Secret Maze PCB, he has provided the files on GitHub.