Almost the first thing that happens in Plasticity is that the pile of rubbish you’re climbing gives way and you fall into a gross, wet cave. Protagonist Noa doesn’t look especially thrown off by the event, as though it’s happened before. There’s even a ladder to get out. It’s clearly a world accustomed to living side-by-side with trash. But in setting off to a fabled paradise island, Noa might decide that it doesn’t need to be. Take a peek at the trailer below (though the game is free, so you could just try it for yourself).
It’s sort of Limbo-ish in its presentation and light puzzles, but without the die-and-retry aspect. As a student project, it can be a little buggy, but the heart is there.
There’s a bit where you stumble onto a bird trapped under some netting, and you have the option to free it. In the background, there are many other birds in similar situations, but you can only reach this one. It reminds me of a Tumblr post I saw years ago and still think about probably twice a month, about the meaning behind small acts of compassion like saving a frog or fishing a stuck racoon out of a bin:
There is so much bad stuff in this world so far beyond my control, that I take comfort in the smallest, most thankless tasks. It’s a relief to say “I can help you in this moment,” even though they don’t understand.
I don’t need a devil’s advocate to tell me another fish probably ate that frog when I let it go, or that the raccoon probably ended up trapped in another dumpster the next night.
I know!!!! I know!!!!!!! But today I had the power to help! So I did! And it made me happy!
In some ways, I wish Plasticity leaned harder into this sentiment. At first, it might seem like things are awful and you’re just doing your tiny bit even though it might mean nothing at all in the long run, but being a “choices-matter” type of thing, being nice to birds and puppies and seals ends up saving the world. Which is lovely! But as it says itself, it’s worth doing the right thing even though it might not have a significant impact, and leaving the results of your actions more ambiguous could have been interesting.
Still, exploring and eventually cleaning up a giant trash world (or leaving it that way, if you make those decisions, I suppose) is a nice way to spend half an hour, and Plasticity is available for free on Steam.