Tornadoes, Time Travel & Scotland!
Today on GoPlayThese, a trio of fine games that may not be for everyone but should definitely be looked at. Narrative driven, dealing with disparate themes and each with a distinctive style, these all spoke to me on some deep inner level.
A girl called Kelly drives home alone in a thunderstorm. On her way she speaks to her family by phone; her injured and possibly alcoholic father, her worried mother, and her difficult kid brother. Both Kelly and the conversation advance through a beautifully imagined Nebraskan countryside while the storm becomes increasingly ominous.
Some people may be put off by the fact that Three Fourths Home is essentially a playable phone call. What makes it great for me is the depth of characterisation that developer Bracket Games have managed to get into this conversation. Troubled pasts, even more troubled presents and difficult relationships are woven into the tale along with a sense of familial love and the desire to overcome problems as a family.
The heartfelt story is coupled with a fantastic minimal graphical style and great music from Neutrino Effect, lending the whole package a polish and emotional heft that is not matched in many other games. The Extended Edition on Steam (and Humble and itchio) adds an epilogue, the soundtrack, and several short stories by Kelly's younger brother.
(Three Fourths Home is available on Windows, Mac and Linux)
Or the end is the beginning is the end... A simple pixel point and click, Epanalepsis tells the story of connections through time and the cyclical nature of things. The story is built around Rachel, '90s fanzine-making shoegaze-listening burnout, Anthony, a modern-day internet loving man-child who can't see the irony in complaining about hackers in his favourite videogame while he sells stolen data, a robot from the future and the obtuse Cascabel and Passus.
One should not attempt to play Epanalepsis expecting a tight narrative with all loose ends resolved. The story is deliberately occluded, meaning imagination has to take centre stage, and many gaps have to be filled. Who are Cascabel and Passus? What is the machine? Does changing the past ever change the future? There are more questions than answers here, but the short run time and cool music mean that it is a pleasure to play through more than once. I felt the same about Epanalepsis as I did about the movie Upstream Color; I had no idea what was going on at first, but I enjoyed it and went back for more as soon as I finished it!
(Epanalepsis is available on Windows, Mac and Linux)
Beeswing is, for me, a story that hits hard. A young man returns to his home town, the tiny village of Beeswing in Scotland after living abroad. Wandering around the town, he tries to reconnect with old friends and neighbours, some of whom are suffering from problems both real and existential. It's up to you how much you help, investigate and wander the town, in fact it is possible to jump straight back on the bus and leave without doing anything, a desire I've had many times when going home.
Part ode to a former life, part tour guide to a small Scottish town, Beeswing is unique in many ways. The art is all handmade, and ranges in style from pencil drawing to claymation, the music is wonderful and haunting (the TV song more Lynch than Lynch), and the whole thing just seems like a labour of love from start to finish.
As I said at the start of the article, this game definitely will not be for everyone, but for those that are into it, it's a strange and touching experience. As an expat from a small Northern town, Beeswing definitely got under my skin.
(Beeswing is available on Windows)