Gothic Americana Adventure: Fallow

Oh. Sure.

‘Music I enjoy persisting on my desktop once I’ve alt-tabbed out’ isn’t at the top of my Official List Of Things I Look For In Games which guides my every professional decision, but I certainly do appreciate it. Playing Fallow’s demo, I’ve left sonambulist Isabelline standing in front of monuments to the families who died to a mysteries ancient danger that swept the Americas, because it’s playing twangly guitar with soft wailing (musical saw, perhaps?) over crickets chirping. The adventure game’s stirring up ace eerie and mournful gothic Americana, you’ll see (and hear).

Fallow’s set in strange world which feels a bit like the Old West, wooden buildings in barren lands, only something is very off. Human brains float inside giant vacuum tubes. The ground is split and “alien” pipes jut out down crevices. It’s odd, empty, and lonely. Your character’s a sonambulist who awakes somewhere new every day, and I’m not entirely clear quite how much of what she’s seeing is real. Either way, we’re told about the curse and damnation upon her family, about the beliefs of the people who lived here, and whispers of what once happened – and might be happening again.

It looks a bit like a Zelda-y or JRPG-y thing from the Game Boy, but is essentially a puzzle-light adventure game. You need to find this to get into that area, combine this with that to get that key to open that door, and so on. As is customary, you’ll pick things up without knowing what they’re used for – rope, a pick, some lodestone – but guessing they’re puzzles items. It is, at least, very forgiving in using the right items automatically in the right combination at the right place.

Fallow has pleasant incidental details, with some parts that seem like they might be puzzle solutions – examining strange writing in a book, for example – but are world-building. I like it. I stopped after realising I’d need to search around to find another item to open another area, but I enjoyed being in its world for 15 minutes. And I’ve had it alt-tabbed for, ooh, maybe an hour now. This song really is lovely. Solo developer Rook cites such fine bands as 16 Horsepower and Jay Munly as musical and tonal influences.

Anyway, Fallow’s demo is over here, and here’s a trailer with some hot banjo:

11 Comments

  1. rexx.sabotage says:

    theremin?

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      It’s clearly some kind of synth in the trailer, but the demo song I’m talking about sounds a like more saw-y. Though, poking around the game’s folders, the song name is Heileigh_synth1. So, yeah.

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        Why didn’t I think to look in the game’s folder? Yeah, after hearing the track you’re talking about, I see what you’re saying. I’m sure the culprit for generating said waveform is a software, analogue-modeled synth like Reason’s Subtractor but, it’s actual sound definitely lends credence to that of a musical saw or a theremin and, by all definitions, a theremin is a synthesizer.

        Just for fun: Musical Saw/ Theremin duet!… I’m going to go listen to some Grouper now.

        • Monggerel says:

          It’s a saw! It’s an actual saw!

          In fairness, I’ve seen people make music out of lightning, so.

      • Rook says:

        Hey, Fallow developer here. Thank you kindly for covering my weird game! I’m really really glad you enjoyed the music and atmosphere so much.

        Secondly, the instrument you’re referring to is a Yamaha SY-1 synthesizer. Hope that helps. :)

  2. Hex says:

    “Twangy guitar” = Banjo (assuming what plays in your build is the same instrument being played in the video).

    The music in that video really got under my skin (in a good way).

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Oh, it’s a different song. The demo is lacking in banjo, so that’s one for the full game’s feature list.

      • Hex says:

        Drat, I was really hoping to hear endless sweet banjo goodness upon playing the full game. Though from your write-up, its sounds like it has strong musical direction, whatever the instruments being used.

        • ikehaiku says:

          The music in the trailer reminds me a lot of what Darren Korb did for Bastion – a Folky-Americana-mixed-with-some Electro.
          And as a banjo player- I’ll keep an eye on it!

          • Hex says:

            Steve Martin, is that you…?!

            I’ve always wanted to ask you…

            WTF was going on in Pennies from Heaven?

    • Shiloh says:

      Reminded me a tiny little bit of the theme tune for “Justified” by Gangstagrass… the looping banjo part at least. More banjo music in games!