You’re not going to make me be an art critic here, are you?
What can I say? Art’s one of those things like “progress” where everybody’s generally in favor of it even though nobody seems to know exactly what it means.
I may have no choice, however, because as a game this one’s pretty tough to pin down. It’s got a little bit of everything. There’s a stealthy part, a stealth-action part, an escape the room part, a horror part, an exploration part, a tug-at-the-heartstrings part, a walking simulator part, a cinematic part, puzzle parts, a platforming part and probably more that I forgot. While some of them may involve clever mechanics, none are what you’d call fully-realized; but I don’t think that’s the point, huh?
He describes it as a “dreamscape,” and like Fibrillation you do get the feeling that dreams inspired some of the imagery. It conveys a similar sense of being too bizarre to be made up. More than anything, though, it comes across as a confessional.
Mainly it’s about the author wrestling with his insecurities and anxiety regarding his life and creative pursuits, rendered in the language of video games. There’s plenty of raw teenage angst, but then he was a teenager when he made this, so what do you expect? I’ll give him a pass there that I’d be less inclined to grant a more mature author. What it lacks in refinement it makes up for, to some extent, in candidness.
That only takes you so far, though. An autopsy is candid; but do you really get anything out of watching one? An artist is supposed to be doing something more. What that “something” is has led to plenty of debate over the years, but I’ve always thought it should involve three basic things.
The first is a sort of transmutation, Prospero-style. “Those are pearls that were his eyes,” and all that, processing raw materials into something more sublime. Ok, seems to be the case here.
The second is communication. Whatever it’s doing, it should be for the purpose of saying something to the audience. This one’s a little trickier. Is he just goofing around here or not?
Somewhere along the way I decided that I was going to judge this game on whether or not it ended up actually having a point; and after playing the last bit I think it does. Every level up to that stage had been a sort of desperate contortion, the author struggling to express one thing or another while being hounded by doubts. The finale, in contrast, is the most straightforward and video game-like: just navigate a path in 3D over simple colored blocks, as if to say that by coming out on the other side of this nightmare ordeal he can finally start to fulfill his true dream. It’s one of those endings that also feels like a beginning.
So where does that leave us as far as playing the game is concerned? Will you actually enjoy something like this?
That’s hard to say, but at least it won’t cost you anything to find out. Although for better or worse that does prevent it from achieving the third main purpose of art, which is, of course, money laundering.