It’s a beautiful thing, rare as a comet, to see a developer do better the next time. The duo whomst’ve’d made Idra and the Little Fish, another tech demo that I enjoyed, spent another three days in Game Jam Hell to produce this surprisingly robust little experience. I can only assume this is because they spent an unreasonable amount of time in Unity. How else could they make these environments on such short notice? It’s a mystery to me. And it will continue to be, as Unity is proprietary, and that doesn’t jam with me.
Let’s look at the box blurb: “be the little artificial intelligence.” Unofficially, the horse’s mouth says, “these jam games are pretty rough, you don’t have to review it!” I’m going to assume they were begging me not to. How could I resist? It’s out there. It’s from some blokes I admire. It’s decent. If it turned out awful, alright, I wouldn’t bother. It’s funny how I run the only publication that deliberately chooses not to review awful work. Editorial standards, I tell you.
If you’re expecting a dramatic story about depictions of transhumanism in the media, look elsewhere. The story is that you’re on a spaceship and you get to launch structurally – perfect loaves of bread at things. I wonder if sci – fi games made a Faustian deal which states they needed at least some quirky piece of technology that exists solely to break up the oppressive atmosphere, say the monkeys in System Shock or Fisto from Fallout. In exchange we get lesbian robots. Not in this thing — in an entirely different thing. Oh, Björk…
The developers must have been hard – pressed on ideas and so chose the opposite thing they did last time, going from an underwater adventure to a space station extravaganza. These are the two extremes that studios are supposed to save for the sequels, when they’ve run out of worlds to make and decide to blow the money on the only two frontiers we have yet to explore. Where is there left to go when we hit space? Another dimension? Once we open one wormhole, we’ve opened them all!
The gameplay is this: you’re an alleged artificial intelligence, though that only takes the form of you hopping from camera to camera. You can interact with the environment, but only that you may see, and the potential for this idea is very big and so scary I have yet to come up with any myself. I’m more of a shooter and story fan, so my expertise lies there. How about a segment where you have to send bread to a goldfish to make them flop out and hit a switch? If you use that idea, put my fursona on a poster behind it. The developer put up a scalie, but she doesn’t count.
I should just describe what happens. Explore a room to find a passcode. Play with some lights. Launch bread, pillows, and a suspicious cube out of a vending machine. Use the bread to knock a camera in another direction. Get ambushed by a rogue sucker whose laser is supposedly a threat but I didn’t notice. Gentlemen, the game is live. We have the technology. All we need now is to expand, to build. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield! Unless they collapse on their desks after modeling another crate. Sometimes I think my job is hard.
Because it is hard. Nobody try to steal it.
The main goal of the critic is to teach. All others are secondary. If somebody comes from a review understanding more about art than when they came in, being a better person than they were before, the critic has done their job. Even the goal of discerning whether something is worth viewing is secondary to the teaching; I am a fan of so many more reviews than I am the movies which made them exist. For all that a review can claim to affect the decision to view a game, and indeed it does affect it, the audience views things on their terms, and not mine. I must therefore teach the audience to make good decisions, and to become better people.
I often like to think I’m teaching developers… that is, those who don’t delete my reviews. But I don’t believe I can offer anything up to the makers of this game, because they seem to have things figured out just right. The mechanics are simple and yet with a lot of room to grow, with a concept of some intrigue and an environment that has yet to be exhausted of familiarity. It’s less broken than Idra, though with a story that I will guess will be woefully generic, because most good science fiction has been done. Friendly reminder, I’m a writer by trade. I’d even be willing to do it for free, like I have for the past five years. No, I’m not bitter.
Being a critic and with not nearly as much development experience, at least yet, I cannot talk at length on how exciting or extraordinary this game’s potential exudes. This is the Yang to Idra’s Ying — this has better gameplay but no characters to latch on to. Idra has a more interesting world, but there would need to an overhaul in pacing for me to significantly enjoy it. For now, I am glad the developers keep making these demos. Speaking from the 2015s, perhaps the best era that indie games has ever been in, things are looking up, and it is thanks to the efforts of developers like these.