AdventureX 2019 Roundup - Part One
Each year AdventureX does a belter of a job dispelling any concerns that adventure and narrative games might not be quite as popular as they once were. This year even more so, as its first year of using a ticket system saw the conference sell out in just 5 hours. With talks from the likes of Dave Gilbert and Hannah Flynn (and they were just the first two) plus a plethora of fantastic games on offer, AdventureX is as much of an adventure in game-making creativity as ever.
As is our usual custom, we spent the weekend talking to developers and playing fantastic games. Here is part one of our highlights:
In Other Waters
Developed by jack-of-all-trades-actual-master-of-all, Gareth Damian Martin, In Other Waters is a stripped-back journey into aquamarine colours and settings. Just like literally throwing yourself into the ocean, In Other Waters is wonderful in its immediate immersion.
This blue tale follows a lone xenobiologist as they journey along an alien ocean floor in search of new creatures and old friends. You are an AI system, capable of scanning, cataloguing and traversing the environment, and in your own way, communicating with the xenobiologist that vitally needs your help.
The navigational systems are simple and stripped of fuss, meaning the player figures out for themselves how to operate the AI to journey to each new creature, through stalks and silt. Accompanying you as you navigate are the frequent musings of your xenobiologist, sometimes reacting to the things they observe around them, sometimes to the emotions they observe within themselves. It’s emotionally weighted from the first few snippets of dialogue, elevating the game beyond simple exploration almost immediately.
We can’t wait to play more of this, but we’ll have to as it isn’t due to be released until 2020.
After Hours is a video game vignette that aims to pack a powerful punch in a small window of playtime. Following a woman who was sexually assaulted as a child and as a result experiences Borderline Personality Disorder as an adult, the game is an intense experience to say the least.
With a foreword that points out that this is just one experience of both BPD and the effects of abuse, the game does well to stay away from broad strokes in this depiction. Instead, it’s very clear that we are seeing one very personal representation and it’s all the more impactful because of it.
As players we see the protagonist Lilith in her room and interact with her via animations drawn on top of the film. We hear her thoughts, see her actions and sometimes direct her responses to those she talks to, putting us in the uncomfortable roles of both observer and the mind of Lilith herself.
It’s a narrative that doesn’t attempt to simplify the trauma it depicts. Even the snippets of the protagonist’s diary are convoluted in the way that any teenage diary inevitable is. These authentic details help keep the player engrossed in the claustrophobic world. We couldn’t look away.
According to the developer, Bahiyya Khan, the short game should be out by the end of the month.
The Longing is a game about waiting. Waiting a long time. Waiting for 400 days.
Here, you play the shade servant of a giant and ancient king who rules over an underground kingdom. You’re the only servant left and it’s your single task to wait for 400 days before waking the king. Something must happen in that time, right? Well not necessarily.
Playing The Longing is a curious experience. A game that is essentially about wasting your time, as soon as it starts the allotted 400 days start counting down in real time. The countdown even continues when you’re not playing the game. Gameplay becomes an exercise in totally slowing down, collecting coal to build fires, sitting and staring into space or choosing a picture to draw. Some of these activities work to speed up the countdown but it’s still a long old wait till the end. With a world as beautiful as this, we didn’t mind too much.
The Longing has a planned release for the end of the year.
A Juggler’s Tale
Poems that rhyme are often very annoying, but somehow A Juggler’s Tale, a game entirely narrated through rhyme, isn’t at all. This is its first big achievement, and things really don’t go downhill from here.
In the 3D side-scroller’s short demo, we meet Abby, a string puppet hoping to flee her life in a cage. Forced to perform for the town she’s trapped within, the puzzles we experienced were mostly based around a simple physics system, with a little bit of platforming thrown in. It’s a beautiful little world, set in a doll’s-house perspective which perfectly suits the whole puppets vibe.
Though only a short skip through this adventure, the demo absolutely positioned this as a game to watch. If you also want your scepticism around rhyme-based narration tested, you can get A Juggler’s Tale in 2020.
But that’s certainly not all our highlights from our weekend at the British Library. Keep an eye out for part two of this year’s round-up of AdventureX, and in the meantime, go check out these wonderful games.
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