By Adam Smith on November 17th, 2011 at 2:16 pm.
So far today we’ve had news from a better world, investigative journalism and egg-robbing retro action. It’s probably time for an RPGmaker game that combines Gameboy stylings with a FOREBODING JOURNEY INTO THE DARK HEART OF MAN (my caps – my entire phrase in fact). I don’t want to give too much away and you can play through the entire thing in less than an hour, so if you fancy a go at the strangest fetch quest you’ll play today, grab Wither here and meet me below the break afterwards. I’ll be waiting. If you get frustrated at any point, heed this advice: no need to run around clicking on everything, there’s always a clue.
I’ll assume you’ve played it now, in which case you’ll either be satisfied with the experience or spluttering with disbelief that I just directed you to play a game that resembles the original Pokemon to such an uncanny degree, even if it does have dead bodies and maggots scattered about.
This one came to me by way of Harbour Master at Electron Dance, who was switched on to it by Calunio, creator of Marvel Brothel. I was warned not to read anything about Wither until I’d played it for myself, which is how I try to approach all of these indie oddities. They tend to be about the joy of discovery. Describe what’s going on and they can seem rather banal.
So what do we have here? A game about death and redemption, I suppose. My favourite moment was blundering into the cars parked by the graveyard, trying to retrieve my belongings from the trunk. Wrong cars, obviously, because there was no way to interact with them.
Even though the journey seems to start at the graveyard, that’s not the case at all. The car in question is the one that mysteriously smashes when you approach it because, as I understand it, after the accident that is the actual beginning of this story, the main character drove away and parked outside a friendly house. The places you can visit aren’t physically located close together; this is a landscape of the mind. That much is certain.
These days, I feel like I spend more time travelling through memories than real places, so I wouldn’t claim Wither is strikingly original but I’m definitely glad I’ve played it. I like being able to explore this strange little world without any urgency or threat of combat. I like the way so many of the characters go ‘he he’ even when nothing funny is happening. Often terrible things are happening. In fact, I think terrible things are happening all the time. I’m playing a dead man and I think he hanged himself. I’m not sure he fully realises what’s happening himself.
Or am I wrong? Enough is left vague that other interpretations are definitely possible. Maybe the nightmare, the bone-strewn beach, the giant spine-bridges and the ferryman all tie together, making this a Ninendoesque Cronenbergian spin on Greek mythology mixed with old-fashioned redemption blues? Let’s go with that.
And as for the retro graphics, the creator had this to say.
The graphics are used to represent the protagonist’s detachment from the world, with the mordib themes being a representation of his own guilt. He can’t connect with the world because his issues are preventing him from it, so he sees the world distilled to one line NPC’s and gameboy graphics.
I like imagining a psychologist saying the last sentence to the concerned relatives of a troubled man.