The best thing about the indie game community is that developers aren't afraid of trying something new. Chalk, an atypical shoot-em-up by Joakim Sandberg, proves that innovative gameplay doesn't only exist on a Nintendo platform. It's also an excellent example that state-of-the-art graphics aren't necessary for a game to be fun and addictive. Chalk doesn't have a thought provoking plot or character development but what it does have is fun and frustrating gameplay.
The game takes place all on a chalkboard. Your character, enemies, obstacles, and other items in the game all look like they've been drawn with different colored pieces of chalk. Movement can be controlled with the mouse and the right click button, or more easily, the WSAD keys. Unlike typical shoot-em-ups, your character can't shoot anything. Instead, you have to rely on enemies shooting a bullet at you, and your expertise at the mouse to draw a line from the bullet to the enemy or enemies on screen. Think of it as a Gradius meets connect the dots.
One bullet can be used to hit many enemies, as long as the chalk meter at the upper left of the game has enough chalk in it. For some reason, the act of connecting enemies with one chalk line reminded me of playing Rez. I guess it's because they're both shoot-em-ups with a little twist in them.
The experience of playing Chalk was made better by the fact that the in-game music fits perfectly with the game. Don't expect the music to be something epic; it's just whimsical and catchy, especially in the later levels. The sound effects aren't too shabby either.
The first level of Chalk was a perfect introduction to the basic mechanics of gameplay. I was mistakenly under the impression that subsequent levels would be just as easy, but I was brutally wrong. The second level proceeded to kick my butt and that was before I encountered line-breakers. Chalk definitely tests your mouse skills.
What I would love to see is for a game publisher to see this game and ask Sandberg to port it to the DS or the Wii with additional levels. The method of attacking would lend itself perfectly to the stylus or even the wiimote. The slight twist on the typical shoot-em-up, whimsical (and sometimes hilarious) enemy designs, and catchy music makes this free download a no-brainer for anyone who wants a quick game to play.