The Valleys Are Alive With The Sound Of Music: The Bends

Laid back.

The Bends is short, free, pleasant, and even playable in your browser if you want. There, that covers the list of excuses you might have to not play it. It’s a walkable song, I suppose – a pretty little valley filled with megaliths that build a chilled-out song piece by piece. After a busy week, it might help you unwind or get pumped for the weekend. I don’t know what you’re into. I don’t know what you get up to. Please, don’t tell me.

Each megalith we activate in The Bends adds a layer to its song, flashing as they spit out bits from a snappy drum snare to warbling synth. They’re all synchronised so it doesn’t descend into a cacophony. I enjoy building the song, toning it down by turning certain parts off, wandering around the landscape to hear how it changes with distance, and ambient sounds contributing to it all. My favourite spot to stand is near that first megalith, the bass drum, where you have the rushing waterfall, a calling bird, and have a good dose of that main synth line.

Running and jumping all over the place is good too, though.

It’s by Svblm, the group behind “Rogue-like-like-like” Jet/Lag, which we gave a good sniff in the Freeware Garden last month. While that was noisy noisy noisy, The Bends is certainly not. Here, watch this video. I would apologise for the muddy quality (my encoder chews up flat colours sometimes) but I suppose it’s more incentive for you to go wander around yourself, isn’t it?


  1. SlimShanks says:

    Sorry for being that guy. You post about walking simulators, and I post about wishing walking simulators were more interesting.
    I was recently having a conversation with my sister about these sorts of games. We both agreed that we adore walking around in games, looking at stuff. But we also agreed that doing so was made massively better under three conditions. A) Your walk is on the way to something else, or achieves something besides walking. B) The location of walking is a place that you willingly chose to go. C) Exploration! Walking is more fun with the possibility of finding something.
    So we determined that for us it was more about enjoying a location than specifically enjoying walking. Do you think we are missing the point? Maybe a game like The Bends is made less interesting by the fact that I can grab my headphones and go listen to music while walking around on my local mountain. Are Brits more inclined towards these sorts of games because they are trapped indoors by the rain 90% of the time?

    • GameCat says:

      They’re (Brits) clearly staying at home and earning 74$ (why not pounds?) per hour by working on the computer.
      They need virtual walks to stay in touch with Mother Nature, that’s the real reason why walking simulators exist.

      (it’s a reference to spambot comment.

    • Pockets says:

      So you’d say that when playing walking games, you wish, you wish, you wish that something would happen?

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      The Bends is a lot smaller than most walking simulators; I think of it as more a song embedded in a small virtual world. Still, I think there’s a lot to enjoy for a few minutes. Did you not like the look of the world? The flickering of the megaliths from black to bright and how they light up the terrain around them? The cliffs pulsing from muted to neon? Building and tearing down the song? Hearing how the song changes as you roam around, how it mixes with the environment? It’s fine if you didn’t.

      As for walking simulators in general, shrug, I don’t expect everyone to enjoy them. It’s fine if you don’t. I should stress that many I post are simply things I think people might enjoy for a few minutes – they’re not supposed to offer the same experience as big fancy objective-oriented games.

      At times I like being freed from the guff of ‘video games’ – the demands, the pressures, the expectations, and the bloody stupid plots. I enjoy taking detours and gawking at game-y games too, but they usually don’t massively reward this because it’s an afterthought. We can enjoy any virtual space as something to wander in, and enjoy feeling we’re bending the game world to our desires, but few are made to really support and reward that. Even big open world games are made with thoughts of “And then you’ll find this cool sidequest and oh wow won’t the world feel alive!”

      Their worlds support wandering, but really want you to be doing something else. The whole game is shaped to make you want to do those other things, quietly guiding you towards them, and when I want to wander I don’t enjoy that quiet but omnipresent nagging. Even a weapon floating in the corner of the screen is asking “Okay wandering cool but when are you going to kill something?” We can choose to ignore these things, but sometimes I’d rather have games free of them entirely; I don’t even want to think about them.

      Walking simulators are more likely to have abstract graphics too, which I find infinitely more conducive to wandering and idle thought than grit-o-realism. The less a game is supposed to look like something, the more it invites imagination. Many walking simulators look so much better and more interesting to me than the fanciest, most modern, most high-tech AAA flashyvision.

      I’m interested in games removing bits that are assumed to be essential to video games and seeing what they end up with. This is probably my core point here, but would take many more words than I want to write at 1am on Saturday morning.

      So yeah, walking simulators. I think they’re an important and exciting part of modern explorations into the medium. Some are better than others, but the same goes for every sort of game we post. It’s fine if you don’t like them.

      • SlimShanks says:

        My sister and I are going to a show soon, and thus the drinking has begun, sorry in advance for typos.
        I feel like my earlier post might have seemed more critical than I intended. Please remember that I am Canadian and most of what I say is totally earnest. I want to point out that I enjoy RPS despite frankly not enjoying the majority of the games talked about. I didn’t even enjoy Papers Please. However, I love the concepts and ideas of many games/things that I don’t enjoy, and walking simulators in particular are something I’m really fascinated by, but don’t seem to have fun playing. I still want to talk about them though, and I’m sorry if my way of doing that seemed abrasive.
        So that said, I’m interested in the best possible digital walking experience. And I wonder if walking simulators are ultimately the best place to do that? It might be like how those bus simulator games are made so much better by having a detailed and/or functional world. So I hear. I also feel very strongly that Dear Esther was made fantastic mostly by it’s plot-like thing, but then is it still a walking simulator if you are progressing towards a goal?
        Good lord Alice, why were you up writing about games at 1 in the morning?! And is it weird that our legs are the same?
        Anywho, I don’t have much to say about the game because I haven’t played it yet (I will, promise). I strongly agree with everything you said, except that there are totally big open games which allow you to wander without trying to guide or bother you (unless you find running from enemies a bother). They are few, admittedly. Actually, I was writing about the inherent value of this a couple weeks back, and it seems (based on lack of replies) that people really rather prefer to be guided. How intriguing.
        I think, ultimately, I’m probably just expecting too much, or the wrong thing, from walking sims. But I can change! I swear, I’ll learn to like them. And then I shall return with something constructive to say…

    • whoistheprotagonistofthehalflifeseries says:

      I think you’re missing the point. Walking simulators are not about simulating walking. It’s a satirical phrase about negative steam reviews on games.

      Walking simulator means that something is a digital entertainment product whose entertainment formula deviates from “do something – get reward”. Or “do something – get an obvious reward”. It is the difference between dualism an monism. In a dualist we-they, good-bad, body-mind, achieving-nonachieving view of the world the idea of getting a reward when you do something the right way is the reason to do anything at all. That’s what computer games 99% of the time mimic.
      In a monistic world the doing is the reward. An it is a big one.

      It is like meditation – there is no visible outer result. You don’t get money for it, nobody is going to congratulate you on doing what you do. The process in itself is the reason.

      Well I hope despite my bad english this does make any sense to you. It is pretty much the difference between living your own life and having your life handed to you by the outside world.

      • SlimShanks says:

        Hey, thanks a lot for the reply. That actually really cleared things up for me, and was the reply I had been hoping to get ever since I started posting about these game-like things. I think my brain just works in a strange way, because what you said makes total sense to me, but was not at all apparent.
        Now I hope I can adjust my expectations to better enjoy “walking simulators”. Although right now I have to go for an actual walk, because I’m restless!
        Also, your english seems good to me. Cheers.

  2. Melody says:

    That was really nice! Thanks Alice <3

    I wanted to be able to turn the sound of the water off like every other instrument, though!

  3. GameCat says:

    Alice, you should work as a radio presenter, audiobook reader (uhm, the person who reads the books aloud) and/or narrator of calming documentaries about wild animals and nature.

  4. Sleepymatt says:

    Are those fake plastic trees?

    • jrodman says:

      No indeed. They are GEN-U-INE virtual plastic trees!

    • Timbrelaine says:

      Hee hee. I see what you did there.

      But they are lovely trees, aren’t they? The kind of thing that ends up on the video game foliage tumblr.

  5. Muppetizer says:

    This was just lovely, thanks Alice.
    You vaguely mentioned it in the post, but one of the things that struck me was just how good the movement felt. Running and climbing felt super tactile and somewhat non-responsive in the best possible ways. I think that’s something a lot of walking simulators get a little wrong, either because they’re just using the Unity defaults or because they’re going for a more subdued or sparse pacing. This sort of showed me you could achieve that mood and also have some great movement at the same time.

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    Aerothorn says:

    That was lovely, thanks Alice!

  7. heretic says:

    nice cool music :)