Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: "Thirty Flights of Loving"

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Review for Thirty Flights of Loving (PC)

PC - 1 player linear storytelling art cube thing, Out Now

I just finished Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving. They last roughly fifteen minutes each, and they're little vignettes out of some people's lives. Whether they be interactive storytelling, miniature adventure games, or just a whole bunch of cubist nonsense, I can wholeheartedly recommend you play at least the free Gravity Bone immediately. Like, right now. Go. Now. Download it and play it, and come back when you're done.

Okay, are you done? Good. We can move on.

Now I really wish I could put properly into words why I enjoyed Gravity Bone and its sequel, Thirty Flights of Loving, but I can't. So instead I'm just going to list a whole bunch of things that are good about it in a completely unconnected and rudimentary fashion.

The storyline is intricate and compelling, yet relies solely on visual metaphor. The characters are unique and memorable, and yet they're merely cardboard cutout cuboid people. The gameplay is tight, it handles well, but there's no specific "game" in it and it only lasts fifteen minutes. Yet the game demands attention, and by the end of both you'll feel like you've just experienced something incredible. Something engaging, and meaningful. Art.

This is the most pretentious I will ever sound, and I hate having to sound like this, but these games really have mastered interactive storytelling to a tee.

...that's it. That's all I can say. Freaking... smart, accessible level design melds with a clever approach to linear storytelling and an amusing aesthetic. It's $5 for like half an hour's worth of gameplay (but with a pretty sweet developer commentary and some behind-the-scenes content), but it feels worthwhile. I can't tell you much more, but I can praise the game openly in front of you. I think what the games have done in particular is take the kind of approach to storytelling that would usually be boring and stagnant when applied to, say, Dear Esther, and made it fun, without sacrificing artistic integrity. These games were a blast to play, there's no doubt. Can we even call them games? Who cares what the word is?

$5 on Steam. Genius in motion, these games. I... I dunno, man. You might not like them at all and will probably be wildly confused. But you'll probably laugh and find them quaintly charming anyway. I haven't experienced anything like them and I likely never will again, but goddamn me if nothing else more needs to be said. Brendon Chung, is the name of the guy behind them. He did a fantastic job, I tell you that much. He really knows how to manipulate his audience and dictate their reactions. It's the sort of artistic ingenuity that is often reserved for films, and yet works just fine in an interactive environment. Does it work as a game? Ehhh who knows. Certainly the level design is smart, but there's no "gameplay".

Who cares, though? Do you care? I don't care. Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving. You can get them together on Steam for a fiver. Do yourself a favour maybe and play them, then come back and read this review and nod sagely in agreement at how right I was that you should've played these games. I'm not smart enough to deconstruct them narratively but I can say they were fun, fresh, original and made me use my brain to comprehend a plot, so on its own merits we can call it a success. ...even if it does take longer to read this review than it does to play the games themselves. OH WELL WATCHA GONNA DO ABOUT IT YOU DON'T WORK IN GAME DESIGN DO YA HUH PUNK

Recommendation: I heartily endorse this title. (You can put that quote on the box, Brendon! On the box of your... of your game that sells on digital media! Figure that one out!)

Also, Thirty Flights of Loving has both kittens

and a Jeff Goldblum mode

...I hope that's the sound of you spending money on this game right now