By John Walker on March 20th, 2008 at 8:10 pm.
Tales call The Graveyard “an explorable painting”, rather than a game, which is just about the perfect description. Your character is an elderly woman, walking with a cane, stood inside the entrance of a graveyard. There are two things you can do: walk forward toward a bench in the distance, or turn around and leave. But it’s not so much about what you do, as pausing and experiencing the scene.
“We know that The Graveyard is not really a game. We could have easily added some form of gameplay. But The Graveyard wasn’t designed just for the players to have fun. While it doesn’t make a clear statement about anything, we hope that playing the game gives people the opportunity to contemplate the various topics that the experience touches upon. Not even to come to some kind of personal conclusion (though it’s ok if you do). Just to think about death, and life, for a moment. It’s good for the heart.”
The black and white design is just right, a perfect motif for a graveyard, the gleaming white bench in the distance making pleasing use of mise en scene. But don’t rush – in fact, you can’t rush. The lady can take a few steps before she needs to rely on her cane as her limp becomes more pronounced, her pace forcing you to slow your expectations. Disappointingly, deviating from the main path isn’t an option, the camera retreating as you disappear to one side. When purporting to be about exploring, there’s not a great deal of that on offer. But reach the bench, turn around, and she’ll sit down. What happens then is for you to see.
It’s so much about atmosphere. From the realistic birds flitting about to the way the sounds of the street fade as you move further into the sanctuary, Tale of Tales again demonstrate a remarkable capacity for crafting ambience. The music, the particle effects, and perhaps most of all, the realistic clouds and their effects on the shadows of the graveyard, all envelope you in this single moment.
There will be a free trial version, and a full version available for a weeny $5. The odd thing is, Tale make no efforts to disguise the slim difference between the two, namely: death. However, having played both it proves surprisingly important.
(Aside of interest to about three people: This (clipped) screenshot really reminds me of a scene from the astonishingly beautifully shot television version of This American Life.)