The IGF Main Competition is a natural breeding ground for experimentation. With Cold Equations we have a project which experiments with the idea of failure within games - how we deal with it and what it means when we do all we can to succeed but still can't achieve a satisfactory endgame. What do we expect when we enter into a game? Without thinking, we need to be the hero. We need to win the day, to rescue the girl, to shoot the mad Russian in the face (the western mainstream's idea, not mine). Cold Equations challenges this expectation.
In this respect it has a good deal in common with Krams Design's Egress, which I covered last month. Both games take the standard point-and-click approach and force it in a new direction. It's also something you'll be wanting to play again and again to test the game's parameters, to see if somehow you are able to make things go your way.
The plot of Cold Equations is based on a sci-fi short story of the same name. In it we find ourselves aboard an emergency supply vessel sent out from the mothership to provide much needed medical supplies to a small group of desperately ill colonists on a nearby planet. Problems arise when a stowaway is discovered onboard - a young girl whose presence pushes the craft over its weight limit. Carrying such cargo it will be unable to reach its destination and communications to outside help are unavailable. Where do you go from there?
Your first thoughts and, of course, your only option is to get things shifted from the craft. You have about three minutes to lose the weight of a child. You can spend some time talking to her, from which you'll discover her intention to see her brother on the destination planet and how she was only expecting a fine for hiding onboard, but none of this will help you both to survive.
The game is available to play online, here, and I advise you do so before reading any further into the story it's based on. You can read the developer's thinking behind its creation after your first play.