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Takume is a five minute parable with beautiful pixel art

You don't even have to pay atoll

One of the finest strengths of the tiny game is their potential to evoke the narrative structures of fables, parables or fairy tales. The larger the game, the more explicit plots tend to get, with a player's patience for ambiguity or esotericism stretched too far over multiple hours. But when a game last five or ten minutes there's, ironically, more room to be vague, elusive, and open to interpretation.

Takume [official site] by Death Trash developer Stephan Hövelbrinks is a fine example of this realised, a five minute game rendered in beautifully animated chunky pixels, a fable of two sisters.

Saying that, I'm not sure how much I liked it. Or perhaps I mean, how much I understood it.

It's beautiful - think a 2D Proteus - a side-on minimalist point and click, where you play one of two sisters, Takume, briefly encountering then searching for her sister, Raroia. Along the journey you meet a few other characters, quickly chat to them, and then move on. It contains perhaps one puzzle, which you can't really help but solve, but this is far more about the fleeting experience than the interaction.

So I looked into it. Takume is an atoll of the Tuamotus chain in French Polynesia. And an atoll, I've also learned, is a ring of coral that forms a lagoon. Raroia is another, a few miles away. And people live on them! Not many - there are 116 people living on Takume, in a village called Ohomo, and 233 ion Raroia. What a place to live! The two rings were collectively known by the ancient Paumotu people as Napaite (the Twins), and there you have your sisters. What this has to do with anything in the game is anyone's guess.

I think that may be the issue I had - I just wasn't ever sure what it was about. It's deliberately opaque, and the exact nature of the sisters' relationship, what happened in the past, and what is in their futures, was all shrouded. I would have liked something I could at least allegorise. But, and this is fairly crucial, I'm using terms like "the issue I had" very deliberately, because you well might have a completely different experience of its slight narrative, might attach to it in specific ways that its incertitude provides. That's the splendor of such games, and when they're free or pay-what-you-want, you don't get to begrudge it!

I think it's a shame that on a replay, it proves that there's no decision to be made as you go, the conversation choices mostly false. It creates a game that I enjoy less for having finished it than I did while experiencing it, which with its mayfly length is a fast turnaround. I was more excited to see where it was going than where it went. But at the same time, was very pleased to have played it.

Takume is out now on Itch, and you can choose to pay what you wish for it, even if that's nothing at all (if you're a baddie).

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