A month or so ago I signed up to be a judge for the jayisgames.com Ninth Game Design Competition. As you might expect, at that moment I was looking for even more ways to waste my time, but at least this way had some sort of critical bent to it: i.e., I would essentially be reviewing each game in the competition.
These competitions tend to draw a wide number of entrants and though each is based on a general theme (in this case Friends), the variety of artists entering the competition means a wide spectrum in the kinds of games produced.
Of course, I entered also because the ad they had for the competition presented a trio of three RPG-types ready for battle, making me think that the resulting games would all be role-playing in origin.
This was not the case. But, still, I was really interested and invested in being part of the judging process.
So I was a bit disappointed when the resulting “judging” that I do involves answering six very general questions about said games (“How well do they incorporate the theme of friends?” & “Is it immersive from start to finish?” to name two. Now answer on a scale of 1 to 5.) rather than including, I don’t know, some space for text responses. Because of the narrowness of the questions, I wasn’t able to give certain games the credit they were due because what was good about them wasn’t included under the umbrella of the provided questions.
Although, that wasn’t a problem with one game (full disclosure: I’ve only played six of the fifteen games so far). That game is the wonderful, entrancing, mysterious but that was [yesterday].
This game received all fives. Again, because of the nature of the questions asked, there was no space to tell exactly why this game is so awesome.
[So why is the game so awesome? –ed.]
As you might expect, if you’ve been reading any of my game diaries, it all comes down to story.
Okay, that’s a lie. Other aspects of this game that amaze:
1. The soundtrack, and how it’s evolution informs your actions (namely, that you are on the right track).
2. The minimalist/abstract presentation. The world is beautiful, but the elements of that world are almost symbolic rather than characterizing. Of course, that’s not strictly true. The main character is identifiable. His friend is given personality through clothing and silhouette. But, for the most part, the animation veers away from the real, and that allows the metaphorical quality of the game to shine through.
3. The emotional/spiritual content. What exactly do I mean? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it’s separate from
4. The game’s story. Because, you see, this is a game in that you are trying to get from one place to another, trying to achieve something, but that tenuous “thing” you are striving to achieve is never fully explained. Yes, there’s another level to the game, which is figuring out how to play, but your friends (a dog, a male friend, a girlfriend) lead you through what you have to do.
Because this game isn’t as much about the puzzle as it is the experience, and what you, the player, get from that experience.
What did I get? I’m still not sure. That’s why you’ll have to play it yourself.
You can do that by clicking here.
Also, you can see a little bit of the artist’s development on his blog by clicking here.