Justice Playthrough #135: Vignettes

I can’t tell if this is a chill, playful “anti-game” that wants me to relax or if it’s a hard-core puzzler that wants me pulling my hair out and secretly fucking hates me.

Page 3, Game 14: Vignettes by Skeleton Business

You are given a 3D rendered thing, like, say, a phone!

I think this keypad may have been designed by Charlie Day

Click it — see what happens! Or, use your mouse to turn it around, see it from a different angle. From certain sides, it doesn’t really look like a phone at all. Like, for instance, look at the bottom dead-on, it’s just a rectangle.

That rectangle could be anything. And if you twist it around, it’s not a phone any more! It’s a pot!

WHAAAAAAAT

What will the pot do with you click on it? What other things will it become when you twist it around? Find out! That’s the game!

When the game puts you in a just-fuck-around-and-see-what’s-next headspace, it’s interesting. It’s kinda fun, in its low key way. You can get some really cool stuff to show up.

Time to toot my tooter!

But then you discover the menu, and the “chill” part of the game kinda goes to hell.

Where zen goes to die

Look at how those things can turn into other things! Why, the pot alone could turn into four other things. What other things could it be?

Twist it around and find out!

No, not like that.

Not like that, either.

Maybe you could turn it the other way?

Come on, are you really even trying? Don’t you WANT to find the other things it could be?!

And what are those icons on the interstitial screen? Click them and find out.

Oh, here’s a picture showing all the things you’ve found.

And here’s a summary of the puzzles you haven’t solved yet. Did you not realize you were solving puzzles? You did not? WTF is wrong with you, did you not realize this is a game?

And here’s a chest. It kinda looks like the beginning of the game. What happens when you click on it? You go back to the beginning of the game, of course!

Would you like to go back to where you were? Like when you found this fucking thing?

It’s made of angry whimsy

That thing was cool. Wanna go back to it and play with it?

Well, you’re gonna need to remember every step it took you to get there.

Every.

Single.

One.

Feel stupid because you clicked on that chest thing and got kicked all the way back to the beginning? Well, you should. But don’t worry, you’ll have the same issue if you ever do something dumb like close the game.

This game isn’t awful, but there’s a staggering difference between the chill, playful, exploratory way it presents itself and the actual experience of playing the thing. The actual gameplay is merciless. Actual gameplay gives on the vaguest hints of what you’re trying to do or how to proceed. The playful, exploratory menu puts you in a corner where you are ONE FUCKING WRONG CLICK away from undoing all your progress and getting kicked ALL the way back to the beginning.

I don’t hate it, but I can’t say I love it, either. When it’s working, it operates under a kind of dream logic that I found quite appealing. Of course the thing just became another completely different thing because of how you looked at it. Of course there’s a cat in there. Why wouldn’t there be?

But I found that once I started investing myself in moving forward, it stopped being fun and just started being frustrating. In particular, the inability to return to a previous cool thing I found struck me as inexplicable. Why does the game want me to memorize every step I took? That’s not playful and zen. That’s not playful and zen at all.

If it looks appealing, I suppose I can recommend it. But this is not a must-have.

What things will be turning into other things for this next one?

Page 13, Game 19: Blasting Agent: Ultimate Edition by Axol Studio

“The definitive version of the classic, pixel jump-and-shoot Adventure for PC.”

Ah, I expect pixels will be turning into explosions. I like jumping, I like shooting, I like adventures. Let’s do this thing!