A Story to Tell


INDIE GAME DUAL REVIEW

       -A Story to Tell-

Limbo

Developer- Play Dead and Double Eleven (vita)

Genre- Independent, side scrolling, & puzzle platformer

Platform- PC, Xbox, PS3, OS X (Mac), iOS, Linux, PSVita

Price-$9.99, buy it here http://limbogame.org/

Papers, Please

Developer- Lucas Pope

Genre- Puzzle Simulation (?)

Platform- PC, OS X (Mac)

Price-$9.99, but it here http://papersplea.se/

     Each of us at one time or another have come across a story that really stuck to us, the hero that gets the girl, the young man who finally makes it home, or perhaps stories that challenge the way you think, is what you think is real really real? Stories can take many shapes, produce many sounds, and speak in many voices. However, no one can tell a story like an independent developer. Recent years have provided us with two great examples of this namely the haunting, lonely, puzzle platformer Limbo and the dystopian, simulation, ethic choice game, Papers Please.

Before you get into any story you need a setting

Limbo’s Setting

     When you first “wake up” in Limbo you are in a forest, with trees so tall you cannot see the top. As you progress you find that this whole world is bigger than you. The world progresses from a forest into crumbling city with very little signs of life. From city to industry and by the hardest puzzling sections as you attempt to press on.

Papers, Please Setting

     The communist country of Arstotzka has ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin. Your job as an immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants, visitors, and people looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission’s primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.

An important aspect of a story is how you interact with it, so on to gameplay!

Limbo’s Gameplay

     Your primary controls for PC/MAC are W A S and D to move, space to jump and, ALT to interact. For Xbox and Playstation the movement controls are the left stick and the action and jump key are Y&B/Triangle & Circle. Limbo is a fairly basic side scrolling platformer puzzler. You attempt to pass each area by either platforming through, solving a set of puzzles, or perhaps through both. As the game progresses the difficulty for these puzzles ramps up at a fairly quick pace to the point where you may spend up to half an hour on a puzzle before kicking yourself for not noticing an essential piece of the puzzle. My only complaint is that this game is unforgiving and full of almost unavoidable deaths during your first try. I will tell you now you CANNOT get through this game without dying at least five or more times. Aside from those fairly minor gripes, the gameplay is solid and serves its purpose well.

Papers Please Gameplay

     Your primary controls for Papers, Please (Mac or PC) are mouse based with the exception of some upgrades you can gain further along the way that include the TAB and space bar. I will say this is the very first mouse controlled game where I felt it doesn’t matter if you are using a trackpad or a mouse. The vast majority of the game you spend dragging and checking documents around so the gameplay is fairly minimal. I would also warn there are a few swear words scattered throughout the story and the scanner produces an image of implied nudity; however, you can go into the options and turn nudity off.

Now what would a story be without characters?

Limbo’s Characters

     The only character you consistently see is you. A small child like human with no discernible characteristics aside from your white eyes standing out against your dark character. The other characters in Limbo are fleeting glances of other humans who are dead, dying, or trying to kill you. Your character in this game has little to no interactions that define his personality. Allowing the player to derive their own meaning from the challenges that face them.

Papers, Please Characters

     The protagonist and player character is the nameless inspector of the Grestin checkpoint between Arstotzka and Kolechia working for the Ministry of Admissions. You hail from a village called Nirsk, and it is likely that you moved to Grestin just for your position, since your parents still live there, and your family will move back there if something bad happens to you. Throughout the story the character’s primary concern is providing for the needs of your family, each day you earn a salary by the number of people you process in a day, from this salary you pay for your families rent, heat, food and occasionally medication. There is also a staggering number of characters that you will come across throughout your day–each with their own story he?she has interwoven with yours.

Now for the Story.

Limbo’s Story

     “Games are art” is a frequently disputed claim.  When people present this to me, I will from now on point to this game. This game is the epitome of loneliness and a basic representation of our fears. The child that we play is a manifestation of our own view on these things. Each player will come out with varying feelings while playing the game –each interpreting the wordless story for themselves. It is as if you are looking at a masterful painting. The painting does not tell you what has happened, nor does it tell you what the character feels. It gives you an image that provokes you to think in an area you might not have otherwise thought. The true beauty of Limbo is best realized when  you play alone in a room with no other distractions. It immerses you in the cold and uncaring atmosphere of the game where you can fully experience this masterpiece of silent storytelling.

Papers Please Story

     Each of our lives are interwoven through the lives of hundreds of others. Our decisions will impact others years later, and we may not even realize it. Papers, Please takes this part of life and represents it to us. It is as if we are watching a representation of what we do everyday from third person. In your hands everyday you hold a married couple, a sick patient, an asylum seeker, a criminal, a friendly border guard, and your own family, and each day you must choose who you will help. Many of you will think  “This is no different from other games with a moral choice aspect”. I beg to differ because unlike most games this game does not always present a choice to you; sometimes, in your frantic haste to process more people through the border to feed your family, you will choose without realizing that a choice is being made. Should you choose to be the good guy, to overlook a mistake so a woman can see her husband, or do you choose to look the other way when a man’s documents are out of order so he has a chance to see his long lost love for the first time in six years. Your family suffers greatly. As the sole source of income, should you lose some pay then you don’t get to eat today, or you must shut off the heat, or perhaps your son cannot get the medicine he needs, maybe your sister was sent to prison and someone must care for your niece.

     You are a single piece of a thousand stories–some large, some small, some important, some not. Each one challenging your moral identity. Will you be brave and noble, sacrificing to save the life of a simple man just wanting to see his family one last time, or will you protect your family, keep them fed, warm, happy and, safe in the knowledge that you are there to provide for them.

Limbo and Papers, Please

     These two stories are both told in different ways with different aims. Limbo aims for introspection of how you interact alone in a world where you are the focus because you are all that is there. You are forced to see how you truly interact with loneliness. You are the focus of the vast empty world–without a single line of dialogue, with very little atmospheric use of soundtrack, just the sound of your own footsteps. What are you when all that is outside is stripped away, and you are left simply alone, no crushing deadlines, no annoying co workers. Just you. Papers, Please is the exact opposite; you are but one small piece of others lives as they are in yours, and each day you sift through the stories of people you come across. It is a story of interaction. You are but just one man who stirs the course of each individual you come across in a day. You hold the lives of those around you, those you do and do not know. It is a story of others and your choice to interact with them. It is as if the developer of the game made Papers, Please to show you this is what you do everyday. This is your interaction, and someone may not go to prison because of you. You determine the self esteem of that new girl ten years down the road with a single comment, you determine the future of a student with your help when they struggle, or perhaps you determine the course of your family, spending your time with them so they grow up to love their family or perhaps you don’t because you wanted to help that depressed student. Perhaps this isn’t fiction after all. Both of these games provide a massive insight into your life whether that be the outside world, or the inside world. It is your world, and your story to tell.

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