I was just over at the Experimental Gameplay Project when I decided to finally download the intriguing Big Vine. Big Vine is a little software toy that, in the author's words, lets you "Grow a big scary tree." Indeed, though simple, the visuals and music together create a nicely spooky atmosphere. Go and try it now!
As you know, I don't come up with any original ideas, I just steal other people's and mix them together. So I thought I could probably turn this demo into a game. And I'm not alone in my conviction that this would make an interesting game. In the words of an anonymous commenter, "this is an awesome game if only it had a gole". In case you didn't know, a "gole" is a kind of small, hunchbacked squirrel-vole creature that I just made up. And I think Big Vine would indeed be an awesome game if only it had a gole.
So here's how it would work. You, the player, would take the role of a gole living on one of these big scary trees. You would be able to scurry around on the branches, and just like in Big Vine, cause the tree to grow or die on the spot you're at. Appropriately for a creepy tree, it eats birds. You help it snatch birds out of the sky by growing branches in the right place. But you have to be careful, because it would be just as happy to eat you instead. Maybe the birds can eat you too. And you have to eat the fruit that grows on the tree. Actually, let's say fungus. Fungus grows on the tree and you have to eat that. It fits the creepy, gothic theme better.
It would be a kind of cross between Big Vine and another interesting game called Cultivation. To expand more on the Cultivation aspect, there could be a whole forest of big scary trees and other goles that you can compete and mate with. And a tree life cycle so you could plant new trees and they would evolve over time...
Anyway, the author of Big Vine has quite a few other games in the Experimental Gameplay Project that you should check out. Attack of the Killer Swarm, which also happens to be the top rated game there, is quite amusing with some nice particle physics. Gravity Head is a very unique game with a similar dark style and of course, particle physics. The monkey sound effects are great too. :)
Another interesting thing about Gravity Head is the environment it creates with only a few simple objects. There's the water spout with water particles that are affected by your gravity, and particle smoke rising in the background. And the way the girl's head turns toward your position on the screen serves to tie things together. This is a lot like an idea I had of making little "environmental sketches" in Flash - not animations but dynamically generated environments. They could be interactive or they could just be little places that you watch. For example, one might be a bird bath where bees swarm around and drink from, and you could fill it up or spray them with a hose. Or there could be plants with rain dripping down and shaking the leaves, with the appropriate sound effects.
The last of these games I would recommend checking out is The Crowd. It's more of a toy, maybe even an "environmental sketch" :p but anyway, it's really atmospheric. The art, the music, the interaction, all work together to create this bizarre experience of controlling the lives of a strange and simple flock of followers. Just try it.