Today I have spent part of my morning as a teenaged Spanish boy who has St Anthony thrust upon him as his psychotherapist. Or, to put it another way, I’m playing episode zero of CAVE! CAVE! DEUS VIDET* – a game based on the work of Hieronymous Bosch.
The reason I was particularly interested to play it is that Bosch is famed for his complicated fantastical scenes, yet this game deals in stylish minimalism. You know those minimalist movie posters? This is that but for Bosch’s artwork. It also won the Bosch Art Game competition last year so I wanted to see how it dealt with the artworks in question.
The game kicks off with a psychological test, then switches to following a 17 year old student on a school trip to the National Museum in Lisbon. While contemplating the Triptych of the Temptation of St Anthony the museum fades away and Hoodie (for thus he is named) begins to explore the imagery of the painting. It’s at this point that St Anthony (who may or may not be real) becomes his psychotherapist.
One choice in the game can lead you to an exploration of the painting. In this you’re pointing a spotlight at the painting in order to play artistic Where’s Wally with the seven deadly sins. The limited field of view is really useful in dealing with Bosch’s work because it lets you focus on the characters individually rather than becoming overwhelmed. But while you do so there’s a whispering voice which does the equivalent of saying “hot” and “cold” to tell you when you’re near and I found that removed the element of exploration.
The glitching the game does is also curious, flashing up imagery as a kind of interference with reality. The set-up just after the Rorschach testing is less impressive and Hoodie’s introduction deals in a number of teen loner clichés or slightly clunky info drops. The visual style works well though, translating these sprawling fantasies into recognisible icons and motifs. If you’re unfamiliar with Bosch, or find his work a struggle to unpick it’s worth downloading the demo for this and having a look around.
*It means “Beware! Beware! God is watching” in case you were wondering.