By Nathan Grayson on June 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am.
I came, I saw, and I think I conquered Foam. I mean, I did things until – after an hour or so – it ended, anyway. What’d I do, though? Well, I walked to a place, and I walked to another place. Then a door opened in my home, and I’m fairly sure that broke reality. Honestly, though, if most trippy pieces of entertainment are stomach-lurching descents into madness, Foam is more of a gradual down slope – perhaps aided by a harness and a parachute. One moment, I was strolling through a forest, and the next, I was talking to some kind of moon-obsessed mad scientist man. And that, I assure you, is just the beginning. Even the increasingly bizarro adventure’s central mechanic doesn’t really make itself apparent until about 15 or 20 minutes in. So yeah, Foam’s really different. I do have some qualms with it, though.
Foremost, its dialog and puzzle prompts are a bit too vague – even for such a minimal game. Sure, that sometimes lends to the feeling of stumbling blindly through some dreamlike haze, but a few segments definitely require patience. Similarly, failure warped me back to a central location, but a couple areas required multiple steps and transformations to even reach – essentially forcing me to redo simple, tedious puzzles en route to the main event.
Still though, I can’t entirely fault Foam’s structure, as a lot of it is really brilliant. It explains nothing – instead opting to intuitively nudge the player in the direction of its transformation mechanic by way of smart, focused puzzle design. It does not, however, accomplish this by constantly slapping you back onto some robotically structured straight-and-narrow. Sure, each puzzle’s got one predetermined solution, but the world’s fairly open, so you can tackle a number of them in any order you choose. And a good many of the puzzles just make sense. I’m a sentient fire person with totally rad sunglasses, you say? Well then, perhaps I should try burning down a tree.
The world, meanwhile, is this strange mix of surreal, unsettling, and laid back. Again, it’s like being in a dream. I look back on it all and say, “Goodness, I became an egg and talked to a coffee cup,” but at the time, it felt perfectly natural.
So yes, Foam’s short, mostly sweet, and extremely odd. Also, I’ve barely even begun to describe the strangest stops on this particular trip, so play for yourself.