I remember at least one TV movie during my childhood that revolved around the enigmatic and insidious toy known as Simon. Its hypnotic lights, insistent beeping, and compulsive repetitiveness were like a siren song to guileless children, and in the movies, concerned parents tried to figure out why their innocent kids were being drawn into near-autistic states by this weird device. The answer, as you might imagine, was that when the kids passed a certain level in the game, they were immediately whisked away by aliens in a dramatic flurry of handheld klieg lights and wind machines.

It wasn’t as unreasonable an ending to a movie as you might think[1] — the patterns in Simon always hinted at something more than just a game, its ever-lengthening sequences whispering promises of a broken code or a truth revealed at the end of the line. That kind of promise can only be made or granted by a power beyond our reckoning, and Simon’s technological air pointed to beings from other planets, rather than to the gods and demons that were busy ruining kids’ lives through Dungeons and Dragons.

With only a few exceptions, we’re less superstitious about games and toys these days — a “batteries not included” label does not a gateway to the stars make. When I play Gunpey, though, I still feel a little bit of that technomancy, as if the innocent little puzzle game was channelling something bigger than itself. Gunpey’s delicate lattices, its winding paths of slashes and carets, always look like they’re trying to spell something out, or perhaps reveal a hidden image. If I can just build up a big enough combo, untie the knot (or tie it a little tighter), a greater truth will be revealed, and Orson of Ork will come down to deliver my bonus points. And a cookie. A magical space cookie.

Gunpey has one other thing in common with Simon: No matter how good you get at either game, or how blindingly fast the action gets, your game will always end because of a tiny little mistake of your own commission. When your loss seems to be your fault rather than an inevitability. Contrast with Tetris, where sooner or later the well is just too full of blocks to go on, or Bejeweled, where you will eventually run out of matches. in Simon and Gunpey, your loss is always your own fault, and when this happens, the urge to play just one more game is that much greater.

[1] Of course, the more Occam-friendly explanation for this plot is that some screenwriter noticed that the beeps and lights of Simon bore a passing resemblance to the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But I like my overwrought metaphysical explanation better.