A Bit Dickish: Californium Now Tripping Across Realities

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 realising it episodicially for free without English.

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  1. Wowbagger says:

    I was surprised to see this come out with little fan fair, I had it on my radar but didn’t expect a release yet. Hope it’s as good as my mind wants it to be.

    (Fun factual bonus: the K in P.K Dick stands for Kindred. )

  2. metric day says:

    This looks lovely. Dick is in the air, I saw this on the Oculus subreddit: link to youtube.com

    Actually it makes me wish this kind of thing was in VR! Ubik would make for a fine experience.

    • Wowbagger says:

      Jesus Ubik would probably break a few people as a VR experience!

      • ooshp says:

        Ubik as a book broke me. Ubik as VR would put me in a permanent ketamine coma.

  3. Dunamis says:

    The first episode is also available for free, albeit only in french/german:
    link to californium.arte.tv

    • emotionengine says:

      Oh, I didn’t see your comment before I wrote mine. But you linked to the French page and I linked to the German one, so I guess that gave my post a new… raison d’être.

      (Also, just to be clear, it seems the rest of the episodes will also be available for free later).

  4. emotionengine says:

    German/French art channel Arte are providing this game for free, in episodic format. You can download them there as they are released, currently episode one is available: link to californium.arte.tv

    The catch seems to be that the episodes are only available in either German or French, but this may not be a problem for you.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Ah, that’s great! Thank you, and thank you Dunamis above you. I’ve made a note.

    • emotionengine says:

      Just played the first episode in German. I really enjoyed this, and although the quality of the localisation was fine, the voice acting was passable at best. A good chunk of atmosphere was probably lost due to this – it just doesn’t have the same vibe, I guess. I’ll probably pick this up on Steam to enjoy it in its full American glory.

      Having said that, this reminded me quite a bit of Off-Peak, that you had a chat about with Pip… precisely one year ago to the day (woah!) link to rockpapershotgun.com Coincidence? I THINK NOT. TO BE CONTINUED…

  5. Moth Bones says:

    This seems a good place to post this real-life version of ‘A Scanner Darkly’.

    link to telegraph.co.uk

  6. sicanshu says:

    “A wasted writer who doesn’t write” . . . that hits a little too close to home for me right now.

    • Moth Bones says:

      I sympathise. Do try not to beat yourself up if you can avoid it, sometimes you just need to switch off and, um, play confounding looking games based on PKD. I’ll probably get this soon.

    • sapien82 says:

      Why don’t you take some psychedelics and then you will want to write!

  7. batman74 says:

    Towards the end, at least that’s when I noticed them, the cardboard cut out type figures have different hexagrams on their backs drawn from the I Ching. All different, and I cannot be fagged to look them all up. However, should you be interested, the challenge awaits.