+ Relaxing "walking simulator"
+ Eerie, dreamy, surreal, transcendental design, music and ambiance
+ Bold multiplayer concept: People are strangers, no direct means of communication
- Lack of any significant, forward-driven narration/story/plot
- Lack of any significant, long-term gameplay
- Odd/Awkward, not exactly comforting (keyboard) controls
- Multiplayer barely works for the lack of people playing this game (workaround: joining Steam group and timing online time with other people)Long:
Interesting from an art-ish and ambiance-related point of view, lacking gameplay-wise, and with an irritating control scheme.
Badmouths may call it a boring walking simulator. It provides less exploration and narration than for example Dear Esther, but a bit more than for example Proteus, and has it's own unique graphical style and ambiance. The graphics, sounds and music give you an eerie feeling, it's dream-like, surreal and transcendental, and for this alone it's interesting to look at and listen to, eventually even admirable.
You select a male or female character stored inside tubes. "It's nearly summer" you are told. You appear with your character on a simulated/virtual beach shore and walk it. Random phrases will appear drawn onto the ground. You "collect" ("remember) some of them by closing your eyes, you also hear them voiced in French then (they are always subtitled in the language of your choice). You collect some object "hidden" beneath some worldly, "holographic" thing (a tree, a bush, a crane, ...) that disappears to reveal this object (chess pieces mostly, and one more unique and confusing one which leaves room for interpretation). You enter a house, meet with a virtual partner of the opposite gender in some sort of bar, put your objects in turns on a chessboard (freely, you don't actually play chess - some spots trigger the words/phrases you previously collected to appear on the screen and be voiced), take a smoke, drink some whine or select some pre-set of music tracks to play music-box like in the background. The lines you collect and make appear are circling around the two characters and their relationship, who are or used to be lovers After that you leave the house, walk along the shore again, collect more phrases and another object and enter the house again. This you repeat as many times as you wish, at some point the simulation starts over again with you collecting about the same pieces again (the game however seems to remember all pieces you once collected - I've just started up the game again and could place all the objects I once picked up many months back when I first played this game).
The partner in the house is either A.I.-controlled or an actual human who is playing the game at the same time as you do. You don't see his/her name, he/she is a stranger, there is no text or voice chat to use, you only communicate with the words and through symbolism you can do with the chessboard and the objects, and the only indication whether there is someone else playing/waiting in the house is - from what I've been told and noticed - a window you see from the outside that has lights on. I haven't been able to meet up with a real human yet, because either the mechanics to match you up with one are not working too well or this game was never played by too many people to begin with. There is a Steam group one can join, and sometimes people try to group up through it. However this is a bit of a misleading way of playing this game, since it was obviously intended to meet strangers, an idea Tale of Tales originally came up with in "The Endless Forest", but which isn't executed too well in this game. A game that did this better was the PSN game "Journey". But I guess one must probably consider that "Journey" was a larger success than any of Tale of Tales' games ever were - the more players play these games the higher/better the chances to meet up with them. At some point no one will play these anymore, I guess, not even "Journey".
The control scheme isn't entirely bad but not exactly too enjoyable. This is a problem I keep seeing in the games made by Tale of Tales. You look around by moving the mouse to either side of the screen, you walk by holding down the left mouse button, you close your eyes with the right mouse button and run with spacebar. It feels odd/awkward and not very comforting. They could adapt to the more classic control schemes that games with a first- and third-person view give you, the usual WASD and mouse-look thing. I don't see any good reason in doing things differently there. Has it to do with being different for the sake of being different? Or are they inept and don't play their own games? I don't know, and I don't like being harsher to them than they deserve. You can play with a gamepad too, maybe I should try that and will feel better then.