Two-person Indian studio Oleomingus make some of the very prettiest video games, I've long thought, and now they've expanded into a new genre with their latest free game. Folds Of A Separation is a puzzle game navigating rooftop mazes in a flooded city bristling with giant clocks, taps, and such in the usual gorgeous Oleomingus way. It's a lot to get your head around, though a treat to look at while boggling.
Folds Of A Separation is a series of little labyrinths set amongst the gutters and rooftops of a strange flooding city. Enter on the left side, try to leave on the right. The screen is split vertically in half, with each side having two possible layouts you can switch between while standing in the opposite half. You might be standing at a dead end now, but switch the other half and you could find a way. Your route to the end is always split across several folds. So you end up dancing back and forth between the two halves of the screen, feeling your way to a route whose potential is always partially obscured.
Interestingly, it started as a physical game they've attempted to turn digital. As Oleomingus told one player, "the game in its original form was printed on paper with half the puzzle on the other side of the sheet, so that you would fold and unfold the maze as you solve it." Sounds clever, that. I might get on better with that.
In truth, I found it a lot to get my head around. Puzzling is not my genre, and trying to hold four states in my head when I can only see two at once was a lot. Lots of bumbling about. That's kinda the point, though. Oleomingus say, "the obtuse puzzles are deliberate, and slowly untangling your path through them is the glimmer of hope that we were trying to articulate amidst the tedium and violence of detentions." They expand on these ideas in various statements.
The developers say Folds Of A Separation is "a short rumination on the withdrawal of bodies from public spaces and the cost of protesting a draconian state." In a lenthy author's note explaining the political underpinnings (complete with links to extra info), they say it "ponders the cost" of dissent "amidst a spate of retaliatory detentions and state mandated carceral violence against lawyers, poets and authors, researchers, professors, trade unionists, dalit leaders, women's rights activists and many others; Who have been imprisoned for years without conviction, under laws resurrected from the cursed legacy of colonial rule."
Folds Of A Separation is available pay-what-you-want (with no minimum) from Itch.io for Windows, Mac, and Linux.