Steampunk Silhouettes: Columnae

At first glance, Columnae [official site] looks like a Limbo-like. The silhouetted folk in a hazy world, the sense of ever-present dangers, the hanged corpses strewn about the place. A voiceover talks about going down in order to go up and backwards to go forwards – it sounds like the sort of directions that taxi drivers often take when carrying me from airport to hotel in a strange new city. Columnae’s protagonist is making progress though, moving through an enormous city-construct in a ruined world. Video and details below.

If Limbo-like is a term – and one that describes a type of game rather than the years between graduating and finding a job – then it’s one that Columnae slipped away from as soon as I dug into the details. Rather than a side-scrolling accident simulator, it’s a “story-driven game with classic point & click adventure elements such as puzzles based on items and dialogues”. It’s nonlinear and steeped in “retrocausality”. How’s that work, then?

“Chapters are not played in chronological order, which allows the player to affect not only the future but also the past of the main character and the world. Depending on the actions that the player chooses to do within each chapter, yet-to-be-played chapters are placed in an appropriate “version” of the past or the future.”

Well blow me down. Maybe this will be the Post-apocalyptic Day Of The Cyberpunk Tentacle. I do like the art style, even if stovepipes, chains and curlicues are a little overdone – that might tell you as much about the things I choose to spend my time looking at as the game itself though.

Columnae is in development at Belgrade-based studio Moonburnt and will be released for Windows, Mac and Linux.


  1. Author X says:

    To go upward, you must go downward. To go inward, you must go outward. You need a little of Columnae, and a little of Columnbee.

  2. teije says:

    Somehow it fits that this is from a Serbian dev shop. Reminds me of some of the more gloomy and esoteric Balkan literature I read when younger.

  3. Urthman says:

    That first screenshot reminds me as much of Picasso’s Don Quixote as it does of Limbo.

  4. Frye2k11 says:

    The preferred term is, in fact, Limbo-esque. I solved an entire crossword puzzle once and regularly manage to slip the term Kafka-esque into conversations. So I know that sort of thing.

    • April March says:

      The accepted progression of Kafka intensity is Kafkaish > Kafkaesque > Kafkaotic

  5. Arglebargle says:

    This reminded me: It was slightly past noon, and I was drinking with R.A. Lafferty, mostly quizzing him about background in Okla Hannali and The Flame is Green. (Long Story) Mentioned my favorite of his obscure fantasy novels, The Devil is Dead. As I recall, he said that it was written as a cycle, so that you could begin reading it at any chapter and just go on through.

    Wonder if this game’s re-organization of the past and future will resemble that….

    • epiktistes says:

      As Lafferty’s biographer, I’d be very interested in hearing this Long Story, and anything you remember from the occasion. If you have the time, mind hitting me up for an email or twitter exchange? [ferguson.aj at gmail / @epiktistes]


  6. Erlend M says:

    I get a distinct feeling that these people have taken the steampunk silhouette animated style from The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, an Australian short film from 2005. It’s a cool style, and I think it will work really well in a game too.

    • NonCavemanDan says:

      Though hopefully not as genuinely horrifying as Jasper Morello. Good Lord, that creeped me out for a week when I’d first seen it (beautiful animation, though, and really reminded me of a classic Victorian horror story in some regards).

  7. AyeBraine says:

    Brilliant, dizzying The Fall was exactly this: a Limbo-like experience that is a quest game in its mechanics and (in The Fall’s case, successfully) working hard to explore a theme.

    Only this one obviously doesn’t have any animations yet.

  8. Arehandoro says: