I really don’t think I’m exaggerating. In the same way that Narbacular Drop made you sit back and go, “Woah!”, so too does Void. It’s certainly not the first time manipulating time bubbles in the world has been done, but it’s certainly the best I’ve ever seen it, and it’s the first time it’s just felt right.
It’s the work of students at the Singaporean wing of the DigiPen Institute Of Technology, and has recently won a couple of awards at the Chinese IGF. You can tell why.
Let me give examples. As you wander the crumbling, broken remains of a large, elaborate building, your passage may be blocked by a fallen staircase. Fire your temporal widget at the area and a sphere of the past appears for a short while, including the stairs, which you can now run up. Very simple. That gets you thinking the right way. Then you might encounter a large, overgrown plant in your way. Cast the past in front of you, and it’ll be a small sapling you can pick up, thus removing it from the future. A sapling you could then plant in a crack in a wall in a bubble of history, which once it dissolves reveals a wall broken apart by the plant.
The game also offers you the rather handy convenience of some time glasses. Held like ye old spectacles, these allow you to view the past through their rectangle, letting you spot items you can grab if you then restore using what the game calls “rips”. But more entertainingly, it allows you to experience both realities simultaneously, which is a dizzying experience. A particularly noticeable moment comes when wandering the sewers, where the water levels have lowered over time. To be in two different depths of water at the same time is quite the thing. Even walking through a tunnel that is both bone dry and completely filled with water. And again, this is smartly implemented as puzzles, letting you fall greater distances by opening a space of the soggy past beneath you as you drop. It’s just that right balance of head-twisting and comprehensible, leaving me feeling in that strange uncanny place of understanding the world, and yet being bemused by the temporal impossibility of it.
This version of the game, available from the DigiPen site, is pretty short, ending with a promise that it will be continued. It’s hard not to want, having seen the smarts on offer here, that this continuation might take place in Bellvue, Washington. It’s built in Source, but a pretty old-looking version. It’s a shame, as there’s smart architecture here, which is made much less impressive by the dated look. Updated to the latest version, given some round edges, and certainly expanded and made more elegant all over, and we have ourselves the next logical first-person puzzler to be worthy of some big-name attention.