Build footholds.
Destroy obstacles.
Be observant.

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About Builder

Builder is a game of environmental anxiety. The world is closing in on you, and you need to escape. To do this, you observe your environment, build footholds, and destroy obstacles to your progress.
There are at least three ways to play Builder. At first you have a puzzle platformer -- obtuse, and full of glitches. Often the puzzles have more than one solution; the way that you choose depends on your perspective, and may affect what comes next. When you've learned your way around, the game becomes a race. And when you embrace all that is wrong with the world -- well. You may be on the right track.
Builder is designed on the 20-year-old Game-Maker engine by Recreational Software Designs. The engine is really not meant for games like Builder, which may play into the game's themes. Stylistic and technical influences include the work of Max Fleischer and Cab Calloway, Solomon's Key, Metroid, Super Mario Bros. 2 (US), Hero Core, La La Land, Seiklus, Braid, Berzerk, Magic Carousel, and maybe a bit of Silent Hill 2.

Alternative controls

Builder is designed for an extended PC keyboard. If you're playing on a laptop or other condensed keyboard, an alternative control scheme is available. Simply unpack the ALTCTRL.RAR archive, remove the hash marks (#) from the file names, and dump them into the data directory.
Before you do this, you may want to back up the corresponding files from the original install. That's all up to you.

Play under Linux

Linux users may do well to ignore the included settings, and instead to dump the Data/ directory directly into DOSBox, using whatever local preferences work best on the user's individual system.

Stipulations of use

Although Builder is free to use and distribute, and indeed to dissect for your own enjoyment, I do ask that you neither reuse its components (including graphics, sounds, original music, text, and layout) in your own projects nor distribute the game in an edited form. The only exception is the non-original music files (which you can determine by reading the credits). As I found them in various music libraries over the years, so you too may reuse them at will.
Thank you, and enjoy.

About A-J Games

The A-J Games label is a throwback to the games designed by Builder author Azurelore Korrigan in the early '90s. As Builder itself is, at least technically, a throwback to those early games, the revival of the label seems appropriate. As of 2021, Builder remains officially the final A-J Games release.


August 15th, 2016

What ho, an update.
I have tweaked the level design in a few places, to get minimize annoying sequences. I also have updated the sound emulation settings, so that the music sounds a bit nicer.

July 12th, 2011

I have learned the origin of some of the unknown library music that I used to score about half of the game. A while back someone alerted me that the boppy New Orleans jazz piece in level 1 is an arrangement of the Cantina music from Star Wars. Today I also discovered that the level 3 and 4 themes are from P-Squared Productions' Traffic Department 2192 and the level 5 theme is from Allen Pilgrim's Xargon.
I learned to live with the first revelation, but the second bundle is giving me pause. If I'm not going to write all of my own music, I would prefer to use public domain material. At some point I may look into substitutions, just to keep the game as detached as possible. We'll see what happens.

June 15th, 2011

Although this turns up nowhere in the game itself, it may interest some of you to know that each of Builder's standard levels has its own name.
  1. Small Steps
  2. Broken Bridges
  3. Difficulty Spike
  4. Phantoms
  5. Salt Mine
  6. ALELA
  7. Fall Buffering
  8. The Path

June 14th, 2011

Some players have expressed frustration with starting the level, or the entire game, over upon death. To those experiencing particular trouble, I suggest exploring the F5 and F6 keys and their functions. Likewise, F2 can be instructive. In an ideal world, one would not abuse the tools provided. There they are, though!

April 15th, 2011

Some more invisible tweaking, and the long-intended addition of a TV blitter. Makes things feel more crackly, and simultaneously more deliberate.

April 11th, 2011

Undesirable glitch in level seven addressed. Other fixes include the infamous "red lady" issue. Possibly.

April 10th, 2011

Another slight tweak to the difficulty in levels two and three. As with the previous tweak, nothing that changes the architecture; just a bit of improved feng shui, to keep a healthy flow through the level.
Thanks to Sylvain Martin for input on Linux settings.

April 9th, 2011

As of today, there is no more futzing with emulation or installation; Builder is a self-contained program for Windows. A Mac version will follow shortly. Update if you like! You can easily transfer over your save files and high scores.
In response to some early comments, I have also adjusted the difficulty and fixed a few unintended glitches. The intentional glitches, as ever, remain.
Thanks to James Harvey and Ken Taylor for added insight.
One final note: if in the course of play you should feel stuck or infuriated, remember the mantra. Build footholds; destroy obstacles; be observant. The smallest and most unlikely details may be important, and the obvious solution is not always the correct, or the best, one.


Mac version is now available! Tremendous thanks to Amandeep Jutla for faciliating all of this.