Amongst the ludicrous number of games, demos, and announcements that piled onto my desk last week (note to self: buy a desk), there's a space reserved for Across The Grooves.
This time travelling, introspective visual novel picked a thread of my affection and tugged at it in the midst of the noise of EGX. It's out now, and it looks as intriguing as I remember.
That's the new trailer, but I'm more fond of the older one. It captures the ambience of the game, or at least the parts I played, which were full of muted, mellow and inoffensively jazzy music, record scratches, and the gently soporific hubbub of pubs. The pubbub.
You play as Alice, who unlike our own Alices has only one magical power. After listening to a mysterious vinyl record (an obsolete form of a Spotify that doubled as primitive armour for the roaming pirates that killed music), she slips into a reverie about a past relationship, during which her actions can change her past entirely.
There was a spooky bit, likely one of several, where I was talking to some friends who suddenly had a completely different memory of Alice's past than she did. Naturally, she's alarmed, but also curious, and sets about tracking down the ex that sent her the record, talking to lots of people, particularly music lovers, along the way. The art is beautiful, the wistful undertones excellent, and the concept is borderline dangerous to anyone as prone to fretting about their past and self-recrimination as I am. I don't think it is a particularly dark game, but I only saw part of it, and it really nails all sorts of vague existential feelings that could go anywhere. I should just call it French, right?
According to developers Nova-box, there'll be multiple paths through the story, several different endings. Alice herself naturally changes as your decisions and time tampering add up, and even the music "adapts and shifts according to your choices and the mood of each scene". There'll be lots of travelling too as you jet about Europe looking for answers.
Across The Grooves is out now on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux, priced at £11/€13/$13. It's on Nintendo Switch too.