Mario And Dear Esther Walk Into An Absinthe Bar: Spate

By Nathan Grayson on March 9th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

A prime vacation destination if I've ever seen one.

Spate looks positively bonkers. I mean that both in terms of the gloriously bizarre sensibilities that peer – with one lidless, unblinking eye – from the depths of its island’s mysterious nethers and the relative sanity of its grief-stricken main character. He’s a noir detective who’s dealing with the death of his daughter, so he’s taken up a powerful absinthe habit to numb the pain. Naturally, it manifests as a gameplay mechanic. “At the click of a button the character can take a swig of absinthe. This temporarily gives the player higher jumping and faster running abilities. But, it also makes him hallucinate, which changes the world both visually and physically. The mechanic is meant to mirror the emotional seesaw battle of drinking.” Heavy stuff. Perhaps too heavy? I suppose we’ll see. For now, though, peep a couple of incredibly impressive-looking trailers after the break.

So basically, Spate’s about an increasingly vicious tug-of-war between main character Detective Bluth’s deteriorating emotional state and his duty to uncover what’s causing so many disappearances on the island, all wrapped in a wildly psychedelic steampunk shell. The probable moral(s) of the story? Alcoholism is bad and mysterious islands have literally never, ever, ever yielded anything good. Sounds like a positively magical (and/or heartbreaking) combination.

This part, however, is what really made my all-scanning Fascination Sensors go completely haywire:

“Yes there are really fun action platforming areas in Spate. But there are also parts where the player just travels through the world. I compare these parts to long shots in movies. The average shot in a film is three seconds. As viewers, when we see a shot go past a minute without cutting, it has an emotional effect on us (think ‘Children of Men’). It sucks us in. It makes us alert. It makes us think without being forced to think. And it turns out that we’re happy to!”

Yes. Very good. OK. Here, let me get your bags. Come in, videogame. We are best friends now.

Spate could well end up incredibly heavy handed, but I very much like what I’m seeing so far. The vibe and general tone strike me as oppressively strange (in a good way), but Detective Bluth’s story has me prepared to pick up some steel reinforcements for my heartstrings. Those two elements combined have “memorable” written all over them, assuming they’re each executed with proper panache.

My greatest concern for this exceedingly ambitious platform adventure? The, er, platforming. I see many sawblades, improbable gaps, and other tropes of the like. Granted, Spate’s psychedelic angle makes it significantly less detrimental to believably (and honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen someone get inspired by that aspect of Mario before), but designing an enjoyable platformer and writing a strong story are two incredibly different skills. If it’s a chore to play, well, I doubt I’ll be sticking around for the riveting conclusion.

We’ll see, though. Spate’s set to wash ashore sometime during the third quarter of this year. It’s also leaping through hoops on Steam Greenlight at the moment, if you’d like to give it a little push.

Thanks, Indie Statik.

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44 Comments »

  1. Ross Angus says:

    Sold, sold and sold. I felt more of a Limbo, than a Dear Esther vibe.

    • nicolekidmanq says:

      before I saw the paycheck of $5488, I be certain …that…my mom in-law actualy making money in there spare time at their laptop.. there friend brother had bean doing this less than 10 months and just now repaid the dept on there place and bourt Renault 4. this is where I went http://www.Fly38.COm/

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Commit suicide off a radio mast and then rewind time – the Game

    • Todd_Bailey says:

      my buddy’s aunt makes $74/hour on the internet. She has been without a job for eight months but last month her pay was $15280 just working on the internet for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more… http://zapit.nu/2zm

  2. Cunning Linguist says:

    Sounds extremely promising! BTW, real Absinthe (if you can find it) contains other psychoactives apart from alcohol, so this isn’t about drinking as we know it.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Thujone, though apparently in studies it has yielded patchy results as to its real psychoactive-ness / activity / psycho kinetic energy / stay puft marshmallow men. The version you can buy in the west seems to be very meek and pathetic, though the stuff you can buy in the Czech Republic, from experience, has personality-altering characteristics. Perhaps its a matter of concentration or mixture with other things, but Absinthe bought in the west is unlikely to do very much of anything beyond look green and give you a shit hangover.

      Also, another game exploring gritty issues. Is this games’ coming of age, or just going through their death-obsessed goth phase? When will I be able to play as a cross-dressing cannibal with a necrophilia obsession and oedipal leanings?

      • PopeRatzo says:

        When will I be able to play as a cross-dressing cannibal with a necrophilia obsession and oedipal leanings?

        As long as I can have a jet pack and a shotgun, that sounds pretty good.

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          A classic flight / sexual repression / phallus related fantasy. And who would you ‘pump’ your bullets into, given the choice? Describe in single words, only the good things that come into your mind about… your mother. Press X to free associate. Press A to kill therapist.

      • tobecooper says:

        I believe cross-dressing requires a certain level of sophistication that cannibals lack*, so while your concept is grand, it really isn’t realistic enough for a computer game.

        *Lecter doesn’t count. He’s fictional.

  3. linorn says:

    There’s also a demo of it available here: http://uk.ign.com/wikis/next-game-boss

    • NothingFunny says:

      Thnx.
      Tried the demo, it looks great, but the mechanics and level design are very simple even for a straight uninventive jumping platformer. Im hoping to see something more like Limbo in the final version.

  4. abandonhope says:

    I passed on this when it was on Kickstarter, but it sure turned out pretty for a platformer. If only I liked them a bit more.

  5. skalpadda says:

    Looks like a splendid idea. Hopefully it will be splendidly executed as well, platformers always worry me.

  6. Super Oxymoron Girl says:

    The title screen sure does look like Krater.

  7. tobecooper says:

    Mmm, I absolutely love the visual style of the game – it creates a great amount of heavy atmosphere.
    The concept sounds very interesting too.

  8. Leminator says:

    Next Game Boss, anyone?

  9. Beernut says:

    Wow, the first trailer oozes a strong “scene-demo-vibe”, I was almost expecting greetings to every other known demo-group in the end!

  10. Muzman says:

    Mmm, stylish, atmospheric a….
    Oh it’s a platformer.
    Fuck fuckity fuck fuck

    • DickSocrates says:

      What, you’re the only person on earth that doesn’t like platformers? The Universe is built on platformers.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        I too do not like platformers. Whilst I grew up with them on my Amiga and C64, I just can’t muster my childhood enthusiasm for them.

      • Muzman says:

        Yeah there aren’t too many of us I guess. I don’t want to pick on this one, but once every fifteenth or sixteenth one I have to vent a little. Especially when so much effort and creativity goes into a lot of them these days. If there were even half as many interesting first person games I’d be in hog heaven.

      • McCool says:

        Lots and lots of people don’t like platformers. The console universe is built on platformers, but on PC, up until this whole Indie craze they were still something of a novelty. The only exception being, of course, the special place in their heart every PC gamer holds for Commander Keen.

        • Lanfranc says:

          I wouldn’t say platform games are a novelty on the PC, really: the Duke Nukem and Prince of Persia series started as platformers, and there have been prominent titles like Lost Vikings, Another World and Gods. Nowhere near the scale of console games, of course, but they’ve made their mark.

        • jrodman says:

          I never liked Commander Keen, even when it was new.

          Maybe this is because I was an Amiga gamer back then, but I don’t think I would have liked it on PC either. Everything about it always said “clunky” to me.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        I will have you know that Unified Platform Theory is still very controversial. None of its predictions have been empirically verified and might not ever be due to the massive amounts of energies required.

    • destroy.all.monsters says:

      It’s so gorgeous I might have to get over my fear and loathing of platforming games.

      Story for me is probably the most important thing for me these days so the reviews on that piece of it will likely be the tipping point.

      Voice acting could be a bit better.

  11. Nathan_G says:

    I’m not sold on the platforming elements, jumping over saw blades and the like, but the aesthetic is wonderful. The Tarkovsky influence is pretty clear, with the reference to Stalker, long shots and rain, and that in itself is enough to warrant a purchase from me I think…

  12. Jackablade says:

    I tried drinking a couple of whiskey glasses of absinthe once. Didn’t make me jump much higher. Did give me the ability to vomit a great deal and accidentally set my arm on fire though.

    Good times.

  13. GameCat says:

    Tried the demo, it’s clumsy as hell and except for pretty graphics it’s just a basic platformer. :x

  14. DerNebel says:

    Let me say it again: If you will argue that games can be art, if you can gush over how Cart Life made you feel, if you will argue days after days about 30 Flights of Loving, then there can be no such thing as a “too heavy, perhaps?”. There should be no middle road. If games can’t deal with heavy stuff like alcoholism, suicide, depression and poverty then it is a sorry medium indeed.

    ON TOPIC: It looks and sounds like these guys know what they’re getting themselves into. If they continue looking this strong they will definitely have won me over.

  15. Bobtree says:

    The aesthetic just screams BioShock to me. Dreary rain, a ruined landscape, violin tension music, and even neon signs. It’s got everything but art deco, though maybe the giant head statue can fill in there.

  16. crinkles esq. says:

    Hmm, well an interesting premise, but it just seems rather rickety…clunky animation, platforming that doesn’t have a satisfying feel. I wonder if this idea would not have been better with a first-person engine. Hard to really connect with a character struggling with addiction on a thematic level when you’re staring at a tiny sidescroller avatar.

  17. McCool says:

    Heavy stuff. Perhaps too heavy?

    You’ve changed, RPS. You used to be cool.

    Also: ctrl-f yields no “Braid”s. So I’ll compensate: Braid Braid Braid Braid Braid Braid Braid Braid Braid.

  18. janet476 says:

    It’s definitely the most-financially rewarding I’ve ever done. Make money with Google. $85 an hour! I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And what’s awesome is I’m working from home so I get more time with my kids, I follow this great link,,
    http://www.Google.fab17.com
    (Goto site & open Home for details)

  19. edwardh says:

    Ah, I don’t mind heavy-handed stuff, depending on exactly how it is done. Think “Requiem For A Dream” for instance. Hardly subtle. But in my opinion the best drama, period.
    But then you have something like “Drive” and I’m thinking “‘You keep me under your spell’?! Are you fucking kidding me?!”
    Still… not everything has to be “Inland Empire”. Even though I wish there would be more movies and games (see maybe “Hotline Miami” – even though that was more like “Lost Highway”) like it (and also like “Requiem For A Dream”), instead of all that quirky and/or upbeat puke these days like “Little Miss Sunshine”, “Moonrise Kingdom” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.

    Damn, that guy shouldn’t have mentioned “Children of Men” (which I also liked a lot), got me going there… ;)

  20. ecdryere says:

    Here’s the other finalist of IGN’s Next Game Boss, Ring Runner. http://ringrunner.net

    A space action-RPG with coop/versus multiplayer, 20 hours of story driven campaign (based on a Sci Fi novel), procedural enemy and level generation, and endless customization (65 ships, and hundreds of unique skills).

    I’m one of the two brothers working on it. Been at it for 5 years! If you guys have any questions, ask me on twitter, facebook, or our forums! Thanks.

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