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Minimalistic delight

  • Mobyduck
  • 11/04/2011 01:12 PM
Disclaimer: this review may or may not contain spoilers, read at your own risk.

Recently, there's been this growing discussion about games as an art form. Though I defend this point of view, games aren't quite there yet, but they are trying hard, and games like Wither are good examples of how the concept of art can be applied to games.

Wither is not your traditional game, there are no fights, no enemies, no allies, only a promise; yet it tries to be old-school, utilizing monochromatic graphics, as if the game was ported from the Game Boy to the Game Boy Color; the sound effects are from old GB games. I won't discuss further the graphics or music, as I can't find any better description for them other than "old-school". I liked it, as I've come to love games that follow this line of artwork. What I will discuss, though, is the story of the game, that is both prominent and hidden.

In Wither you are a boy, or better, a man, that just lost someone very dear to him. You find yourself near the cemetery where, just recently, your brother was buried and, to pay your respects, you promised to collect 12 flowers and bring to him. The game already starts weird, as trying to read the tumbstone will result in the man hearing his brother, complaining about you not being able to pay even the promises you make to yourself, so he can't forgive you. Trying to leave the town through a small road will result in a similar taunt.

Acquiring all 12 flowers is quite easy; to do so, the man must talk to everyone in this that seems to be a small town, the townspeople will either give clues about where a flower will be, or give it themselves, as long as the man is ready to make them some company. What's important, though, isn't the act of finding the flowers, but the process of looking for them, that will require the player to talk to the NPCs, will require exploration, which in turn will reward the player with several subliminal messages about what really happened. The fact that nothing is ever clear makes it even more intriguing for the player, or at least it did for me, which pushed me to continue exploring, to understand what was being given to me.

At no moment does the man the player controls speak, and yet I could feel his sadness during some moments. At the morgue, I felt bad when I read the description that, in one of the beds there was a man lying where "my" brother once laid; not a day had past since he was buried. I could feel a bitter taste in my mouth as the responsible for the place started to talk rubbish and smoke around them.

By the end of the game, things started to piece together, it became a bit more obvious what was going on, but when it finnaly ended, much left to be answered. Some might feel cheated by the game, but maybe that's the point, to make the player, for once in a while, think about what just happened. Playing Wither is just like reading a good poem; it takes more than the skill to read/play, one must apply critical thinking beyond what is usually asked from him to really understand what is the message behind it. And even then, several messages can surface, even if the author only thought of one. A good game, an art game, will induce deep feelings on its players, and each player will have its own response to it, creating a plethora of answers.