A wasted writer who doesn’t write goes tripping across dimensions in a first-person explorer inspired by the life and works of Philip K. Dick? Yes, absolutely, go on, thank you. That’s Californium [official site], which came out this morning. I’ve played half an hour so far and goodness me, I have been delighted to explore this slice of ’60s California and peel away the corners of reality to peek into worlds beyond.
So there you are, Elvin Green, a failing writer whose life is falling apart as he loses people he loves and turns to illicit substances. And then… a firm but friendly voice pokes a little crack in your reality, and the world starts to come undone. You can find weak spots to trigger, opening bubbles of another world – one quite different, where Elvin is at least more successful.
Here’s a sticking point: these bubbles are opening by finding and clicking on hotspots, areas where the world starts flickering or glitching out. Everything is advanced by finding these. But whatever, the unreal California it starts in is glorious. Heck, when it took me a while to find the final hotspot in Elvin’s apartment I was just happy to poke around and peek out windows. The first other world – a cold, formal place – is interesting to see scraps of too.
It’s all very pretty. A combination of flat-coloured 3D models and drawn artwork create a world filled with books and bottles and cans and plants and cutlery signs and… it’s a very pleasingly crowded place. The hand-drawn 2D sprite characters are great too, full of personality. Wandering around, staring at things and chatting to people, has been a treat. It sounds nice and all.
I’ve only played the first chapter (of five, I think) so this isn’t Wot I Think, mind, I’m just tossing some thoughts out. I’m keen to return after work and see more of where Elvin has ended up, and where he might go next.
Californium is £6-ish for Windows and Mac from Steam and GOG. Oh! Or, if you can speak French or German, the arts channel Arte (who provided funding for Californium) are releasing it episodicially for free without English.