What mysteries lurk in all that ocean water? If Like Gulls Crying At The Dawn is anything to go by, you might not actually want to find out. On its surface, it’s a game about finding washed up messages from a shipwrecked traveller, but, just like the ocean, there are currents of deeper themes underneath. It also has less tortured metaphors than I do.
Though every day consists of the same routine of going outside, reading the message that’s been drawn in by the tide, and returning to the safety of the lighthouse, there’s a real sense of time passing. The weather changes. Colours come and go: the grey of a storm, the pink of a sunrise. Birds dance on the horizon, or don’t.
Going back inside prompts a new image to appear, one that took me a couple of viewings to realise was a boat approaching a lighthouse, creeping closer with every day. It’s the characteristic tiny, low-pixel count Bitsy sprites that make it not immediately obvious, but that’s not a complaint. The sudden moment of clarity breaking through in a game that’s very much centred on anticipation of the unknown couldn’t come from many other engines.
It also serves to make you even more curious about what will happen when that raft finally arrives, which I won’t spoil. It’s not surprising, though, that developer Kstull (like many Bitsy developers) describes the game as a poem; its conclusion and the beauty of the writing throughout mean that it couldn’t be anything else.
You can play Like Gulls Crying At The Dawn for free in your browser on itch.io.