Binary Toys: amuse yourself with tiny desktop creatures

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Binary Toys are animated windowless vector characters “made up of springs, muscles, and masses” that are designed to inhabit your computer, interacting with your desktop environment in accordance with the laws of physics.

Get the picture: animated wireframe creatures walking, crawling around your desktop, tumbling from the top of one open window to the another, falling on their backs, legs wriggling in the air, and hence unable to move without your intervention (which, in this case, could either be to grab hold of the edge of the creature and flick it around with the mouse, or press “U” to magically untangle it).

Not sure if I should categorize this as a “game” or a “desktop enhancement 😉 . Here are more notes:

  • Interaction: you can grab any of the “nodes” on the creature’s body and drag it around, drop it, etc. Keyboard controls as follows: T/toggle transparency, S/change size, large and small, M/show muscles (really just changes the look a little bit), U/untangle, get back on its feet, R/reverse direction, Space/pause and unpause.
  • Creatures: ten in total (right click on a creature to change). You can have creatures change randomly or have multiple creatures running around the screen simultaneously. Creatures include: Amoeba , Bouncy Diamond, Breaking Wave, Caterpillar Pod, Cheeky Triangle, Dainty Walker, Dirk Jiggler, Hairy Caterpillar, Millipede, Wiggly Worm. There’s an option to load creatures from an XML file for future additions.
  • Behavior: according to the Binary Toys site: “these toys exhibit complex behavior and are surprisingly life-like”. They really do.(Another) Binary Toys Screenshot
  • Memory consumption: around 5 megs in memory.
  • Installation: no installing necessary; simply run the executable.

Wish list:

  • Multi-screen support: I was surprised to find that you can’t grab a creature from one screen and drag it into another. No’r will a creature crawl from the edge of one monitor onto the next one.
  • Climbing vertically: as it is, the creatures end up falling down whatever windows may be in their path and settling on the bottom of the screen, where they just pace left and right until you manually pick them up again (or shut them down). It would be cool if at least some of these (spiders, caterpillars, worms, etc) would climb back up on the sides and top of the screen (this wishlist item added after the original posting, on reading users’ comments).

The verdict: honestly this is so cool. These things are amazingly well designed and just look fantastic. Not much practical use for them, of course, short of impressing colleagues (and, ahem, children) with the coolness of your desktop or possibly playing pranks on people – but a must download nonetheless. Go ahead, indulge yourself!

Version Tested: unknown.

Compatibility: WinAll.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 148K).