Loom and Gloom: Looming

By Quintin Smith on August 10th, 2010 at 9:52 pm.

If I made an indie game I would call it ARTHOUSE and it would be about punching your way through a haunted art gallery.
Time for your weekly dose of monochrome indie weirdness! Yes, open wide, boys and girls. It’s probably good for you. Looming is a flash game by a Mr. Gregory Weir where you explore a timeless and ominous pocket dimension, collecting bits of evidence regarding what the place is and what happened here, gradually picking you way towards one of nine endings. It passes my sole criteria for idea-centric indie games, which is to say I’d give a finger to see the idea realised on the same scale as a AAA commercial title. Some more thoughts and a video walkthrough after the jump.

I found Looming oddly reminiscent of the unreality explored in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which can only be a good thing. Something to do with the omnipotent abstract rules and the lack of colour or warmth, I suppose. Tone aside, I have a theory that it’s only the text that accompanies the items you find in Looming that makes the world so interesting, as opposed to the design of the world itself.

It’s a billion miles away from, say, picking up a new gun in Mass Effect 2 and finding yourself presented with a sheaf of text about the technology inside it. Looming’s item descriptions represent a sub-game, with each one you pick up scouring away a tiny corner of your ignorance and daring you to piece together what you know like you would a jigsaw. It’s almost like archeology. Why hasn’t there been a decent archaeology detective game yet, anyway? Hrmph.

Here are a couple of video walkthroughs for when you get stuck. Course, they go through all the endings one after another, so you’re likely to see some spoilers. You have been warned.

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28 Comments »

  1. robrob says:

    It’s nicely presented but there’s not much actual game here. I didn’t find the dot hunt to be compelling enough to keep playing past the first few, and going off exploring just made me feel like I’d missed a bunch of them and couldn’t be bothered going back to scour the area for them.

    Regarding archaeology games, can anyone remember that game where you have to figure out how famine and immigration have determined populations in cities? I think that is a very abstract kind of investigative archaeology thing.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Opera Omnia. One of the stranger games I’ve played.

      I quite liked Looming when I played it a month or two ago – there was a feel of alienness about it that seemed almost Mievillian. Pity about the dot-hunting.

    • robrob says:

      Thanks, Pleasingfungus, that’s the one.

  2. Travis says:

    I liked how it reminded me of “House of Leaves”.

    I didn’t like how the endgame became “wander around looking for a dot slightly larger than other dots”.

    Oh, and the audio is tremendous.

  3. Sulphur says:

    I clicked on the headline thinking this was a fan-sequel to Loom.

    Damn you for dashing my sudden spurt of optimism to the ground, RPS. *shakes fist*

  4. geldonyetich says:

    Finished it, all 8 endings. Cheated a bit on the last ending and the first one, and bone V is damn hard to find.

  5. Armyofnone says:

    I remember playing this a few weeks back. I really enjoyed its portrayal of two different cultures through ancient relics. Walking about got a bit dull, but overall I found it worth it.

  6. stahlwerk says:

    I got heavy dear esther vibes from the “backstory”, this might as well be the demake to DE’s remake.

    That Tally Bead II took me 20 minutes to find. The “star” puzzle was nifty, because it used a familiar puzzle element with a slight twist and thus rewarded you for literally looking in every corner.

    Also: “Nier nier nier NIER NIER nier!”

  7. Demon Beaver says:

    After finding all items and six endings, I didn’t know what to look for, so I gave up. But the minimalistic presentation and its ability to draw you into such a bleak world is admirable.

    • Demon Beaver says:

      Also, this game is an iconic example for achievements being completely uncalled for

  8. Zhan says:

    Well that was a waste of time…
    I liked the story about the two civilizations even though it ended in a very uneventful way. But the other stuff was just flat out boring. Also those fucking horribly sappy letters to January really didn’t help the fact that the endings are not even shown to us. Instead you get a message to an off-screen person without any character traits or anything that would make her interesting.

  9. Zhan says:

    Oh and I’m pretty sure I’m not a detective genius but I got the idea behind most of the item collections from the first few items so getting the other ones was a huge chore. It’s not that hard to get that the bones belong to a huge bird-lizard that died a long time ago and the teaching on the rings show us that those people viewed science as a religion. So there is no reason to make 6 of them. For some reason I get so frustrated by these kinds of indie games. The premise always looks like it’s going to be a fun story told in an unusual way but it’s usually not the case.

  10. Saucy says:

    Tried it. Funny thing about exploration in games: it’s only good when it’s actually interesting to explore. The game is black field with white dots. Sometimes there are things sticking out of the ground. It’s not interesting to explore; not by a long shot.

    Also, those fucking letters. Seriously, what is with indie developers and romance? Not even mainstream video games like Silent Hill: Homecoming do romance as badly as indie games. Please stop.

    Might as well try it again, though.

    Fake edit: Tried it again. Never again. If I want a bleak, black and white world to explore I’ll play Phenomenon 32. Even grinding for materials in that game is more interesting than “hey January, I found a dot on the ground it looks like a gold bead. It’s not really gold, it’s black and white because black and white is dark and mysterious, like my soul”

    • Jayt says:

      Are you serious about indie devs being worse at love stories? really?

      REALLY?

  11. MWoody says:

    Enjoyed it, but then, I fondly recall old-school monochromatic hypercard adventure games as a kid. It’s like woodcuts; the requirements of the medium and tech of the time sort of accidentally resulted in a style all its own.

  12. tomwaitsfornoman says:

    I really liked this game until I only had one artifact left to find.

  13. Door says:

    Is there a way to expand the game? The game loads in a small area and cuts off the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen.

  14. Cooper says:

    It doesn’t work for me – a blank screen and “wind” noises is all I get…

  15. Nallen says:

    Well this seems to be going down like a hooker with a mortgage…

    • Matt says:

      Is that a good or bad thing?

      I just played it for half an hour… kind of wish I hadn’t.

    • Nallen says:

      I think you answered your own question.

  16. Tinter says:

    Its just Yumme Nikki with less game, more writing but less of an interesting idea. And less pretty. So… play Yumme Nikki instead? Or don’t because even thats probably not worth the time…

  17. Berzee says:

    “Why hasn’t there been a decent archaeology detective game yet, anyway?”

    Did you ever play Ripley’s Believe It or Not: The Riddle of Master Lu? That might be as close as you get — not exactly ABOUT archaeology, but it’s a point-and-clicky adventure game *about* an archaeologist. I derive a number of childhood quotes from it, but I haven’t been able to make it run on modern machines. :(

  18. JuJuCam says:

    I played it through all 9 of its endings (needed help with two), didn’t find the (literal!) pixel hunt too annoying but thought we were beyond that type of gameplay in 2010. Then again, we’re also beyond the monochrome pixel art and I didn’t mind that so I guess I should accept that it’s a throwback game.

    It’s not though. It’s far too anticlimactic. The most interesting thing was the lighthouse puzzle – apparently the designer agreed and used it twice. Actually scratch that, the most interesting thing was reading the designer’s notes after completing all of the endings. And I would definitely agree that the level of creativity here is a cut above the rest. Overall, I found it worth playing.

  19. FunkyBadger says:

    Puts me a bit in mind of Knights in the Nightmare, but without the awfully-paced cutscenes and, err, kaliadascope bullet-hell mini-levels…

    Atmosphere-wise!

  20. Winterborn says:

    Alt text is brilliant, made me laugh out loud.

  21. DarknessKight says:

    You guys do realize that I provide both a spoiler free map and a spoiled map in the video description. If pixel hunting is annoying then grab the map and cross off the items you know you’ve gotten and look at the spots you are not sure of.