I was gifted a Backbone for Christmas, which is essentially a controller that attaches to your phone. Along with providing better controls when playing on my phone, the Backbone also came with a month of Xbox Gamepass, which has provided me access to a number of indie and small games that I might not have been able to play otherwise. It’s been a great month of games.
Pentiment is a narrative-driven adventure game from Obsidian Entertainment. Set in 16th century in the fictional town of Tassing, Bavaria, the game centers on Andreas Maler, an illuminator (artist) working at the local Abbey. When a murder of a prominent noble occurs, Andreas begins an investigation in the name of helping a friend. The player is able to wander around the town, interviewing various characters in an attempt to get at the truth — despite the fact that there never seems to be enough time and the answers seem hard to unravel.
One of the many things that makes this game so compelling to me is how it presents various perspectives on the truth (eliminating any clear objectivity) and how it deals with the passage of time. As the title hints at (a pentiment is an underlying image or forms that have been painted over), the “truth” is often a layering of stories and time.
Pentiment is a game I’ll likely play again, as I’m curious how the different choices that the player makes affect the storytelling and how the various truths layer upon one another.
Somerville is an adventure game from the new studio Jumpship (founded by one of the developers of Inside, one of my favorite games). When an alien invasion suddenly shatters their quiet night at home, a man journeys through the ruins trying to find his family.
The gameplay involves solving simple puzzles and light platforming, in which the player (as the man) uses an alien device that merges with light to melt the remnants of the alien technology. Some of the movement was occasionally frustrating, as the player is often forced to move at a slow walk while moving through certain levels and the depth perception of where the character is located on screen is sometimes hard to judge. However, the art design is beautiful, providing stunning imagery of the alien ships and the extensive ruins and the puzzles are generally fun. In addition, the story is both grounded in the connection between the man and his family, while also being mind-bendy with a wild ending that allows for multiple interpretations of exactly what the aliens are and what their purpose is. I had a great time with this game, which took about four hours for me to complete.
The puzzle game, Unpacking, from Witch Beam studio, has a delightfully simple premise. The player is presented stacks of cardboard boxes within a series of rooms. As each box is unopened, the player chooses where to place the objects within the home, having to adjust to make sure that each book, t-shirt, collectable, and toothbrush has its proper place. This game is delightful and relaxing in its gameplay and, without the use of dialog or explanations, also manages to tell a lovely story about a woman growing up, finding her place in the world, and discovering and falling out of love.
Townscaper is a toybox created by solo developer Oskar Stålberg. The game features no objectives or storytelling; it just presents a beautiful little town creation tool, in which the player can build beautiful, strange towns and cities, with as much complexity as they’d like. I had quite a bit of fun testing this one out and exploring the combination of construction and color. Absolutely fun, especially for artistic types.
If you’re also interesting in what books, movies, and TV shows I enjoyed in January, check out my Culture Consumption post.