Missing Translation Review


Since I’m super skint and a major tight-ass at the moment,  I’m just playing and reviewing FREE games on steam. Despite the price tag, or lack of one, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few titles. Missing Translation is one of them.

The narrative is light but basically you get pulled into an alien world and have to find parts to fix the portal that transported you there. To do that, you need to explore (in a very linear way) the world and solve puzzles. Apparently you can also try to figure out the native dialect by talking to people in the world and ‘studying’ at the school, but that is optional and frankly, I didn’t bother.

The puzzles are pretty cool, in my opinion. Although there are no hints or any explanation of what to do (or why), I found them fairly intuitive and very rewarding. For a while there I felt like a flipping genius!

You have to solve 25 levels of three different types of logic puzzles. Note: 15/25 in the first set of puzzles set my brain on fire for a while there… There is no punishment for failure and often it is a mix of trial and error and puzzle planning that gets you through within a few minutes. One thing I did find annoying was that I had to ‘re-engage’ with the puzzle every round (e.g. 1/25, 2/25 etc). I guess this was to give you the option to leave the puzzle without having solved all 25, but it mostly just created dead space between rounds and unwanted extra clicks.

The whimsical ditty playing in the background made playing through so many rounds… kinda nice. The simple art style and black and white palette worked with the game and the simple narrative. There was enough detail to pull me in but not take up too much of my time (I have a 2 year old, I don’t have a lot).

Final thoughts – definitely worth a casual play.

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Journey Review


Journey, produced by Thatgamecompany and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PS3 on March 13 2012

This beautifully unique and magically presented game tells its story without words, leaving awestruck players to develop their own theories for the purpose, lesson and conclusion of the journey. Here are my own:

I’ll cut to the chase; Journey is about life – all of it, simplified into 2-3 hours of tranquil, curious play. The subject is very topical for me at the moment as I am a new mother of a 9-month-old baby girl. Watching her grow and learn about herself and the world around her is an entertaining joy and so is Journey because it invokes a similar wonder and pleasure.

Puer (the name I’ve given our cloaked protagonist) is reincarnated from the stars to find himself with very little knowledge about his world (a windy, undulating desert) and limited ability to communicate or move around – just like a baby. The landscape is awe-inspiring and vast and Puer seems so small and insignificant. As he moves through his journey, he slowly gains skills and understanding; now he can have a bigger impact on the world around him. He meets and takes guidance from others who help him along the way (cloth creatures and spirits). He slowly grows and ages, although this is not visible of his character, it is the made apparent by the environment around him. Suddenly there are more complex problems to solve, histories to understand and a visual richness bringing to light detail that makes the mind wonder and guess at the past.

Puer’s scarf seems to represent knowledge and his life force. As he discovers and interacts with his world it grows in length and gives him power to move more easily through his environment. At the same time, the history of his world is slowly revealed. A once thriving population lived within a great city but the introduction of technology and eventual war caused the fall of the civilization. This history lesson is an important part of Journey. As Puer uncovers the past, he has aspirations for his future – knowledge is power, actions have consequences, be better than those before you. You feel a sadness at the loss of something once great and it drives you to want to ‘fix’ the world, but that is not the purpose of your Journey.

By the time Puer reaches the snow-covered mountain (the mother), he has aged substantially. His scarf is covered in frost, hindering his power to float and fly. It also represents the cloudiness in his knowledge – it is still there but it can’t be easily accessed. Puer’s movements are slow, impeded by powerful icy winds. Friends hover far away, high in the sky and are no longer much help. Some die around him, reminding him of his own dwindling mortality. Foes are lurking around every corner. The world has become a scary, difficult place.

Thankfully as he nears the end, Puer has a chance to be free of the shackles of age once more. He accepts his fate and returns to the source of all life – the mountain peak. Now he lives in his mind and is free of the burden of his body. He remembers the good times, his relationships and how far he has come. He finds peace and at that moment he is ready to die. As his soul is released from his body, it is returned to where it all began…

A cloaked being awakes in the dunes, ready to begin a new journey.

 

The game story gets 5/5 symbol stars. The fact that much of it is up for interpretation is a tribute to its intricate and personal subject – life.