By Kieron Gillen on January 6th, 2009 at 11:37 am.
Poisoned Sponge urged me to play this. I now urge you to do likewise. It’s from Blendogames (aka Brandon Chung), built on the Quake-2 derived KMQuake2 engine and is intellectually a cross between Hitman, No-one Lives Forever and Team Fortress 2, with a big splash of arthouse gibber. It’s also the wittiest game I’ve played since… World of Goo? Yeah, sounds right. And best of all, prominently features music from much-beloved-by-RPS-film Brazil. Get it here and play it – and remember F6 is Q2’s quicksave for the jumpy bits – and a little bit of spoiler-heavy analysis beneath the cut.
Seriously, you’ve played it? Wasn’t that just delightful. And incredibly confident. And even surprisingly polished – a tad buggy around the edges, occasionally – but slickly picks up the lessons of other games and runs with them. The TF2-esque information dumps via the environment were particularly well done. Yeah, first-person platforming, but we’ll forgive that, eh?
And it’s really beautiful and lively and full of individual moments which all too many mainstream games couldn’t match. Particular favourites? The cigarette smoking in the chase sequence. The open-air party with dozens of planes flying around it. The bit where you fall onto the table and everyone’s just staring at you. And, of course, the ending…
And it’s… okay, this is veering into pretentious territory, as I’ve got no idea of the creator’s intent. Theory says that doesn’t matter, but if the reason that the game’s as brief it is something as simple as “Yeah, got bored with it” or “Gonna do future episodes” this may fall apart. But as is…
Well, one of the interesting things about Gravity Bone is that while it’s a short-form game, it doesn’t act like a short-form game. If a game’s going to be this small, you can tell – in that the skills are introduced immediately and you’re kind of left to it. Instead, Gravity Bone takes the mainstream videogame structure of slowly introducing skills. It makes you think it’s going to go on. I mean, if they’re giving you these skills one at a time and gradually broadening what you can do… well, why would they do that if they’re not going to continue? Hell, when you pick up all the equipment that’s available, it fills in slots 1, 2 and 4. What’s in 3? Clearly something’s going to be in 3? That’s what games have taught us.
Except, no, the game just ends with the hero being shot and falling, flashbacking to his doom. It’s kind of plays the opposite gag of You Have To Burn The Rope. That says upfront all that this is all that it’s going to be. This implies it’s going to be something else, but… well, no it’s not. The hero could always be shot before his adventure starts, and the illusion of games arc is always that – just an illusion. Yeah, Gravity Bone does it with enough joy to avoid any sense of cynicism, but the point’s there beneath all the bonhomie.
But putting aside whether I’m onto something there or not, there’s much to admire here. It’s an indie art game whose main effect is to delight you at every turn, displaying an enormous amount of craft in every part. About as Highly Recommended as I Highly Recommend anything.