A new house, a new investigator and a brand-new complex set of puzzles to reach the Null element and discover the tale of those who fell to it. This is The Room: Old Sins. Continue reading Review: The Room: Old Sins
Master Leonardo is in trouble, his latest experiment has drawn unwanted attention. He trusts you, his lowly apprentice to retrace his steps and aid him. To do so, you first must find a key and enter The House of Da Vinci. Continue reading Review: The House of Da Vinci
What would you do if you found a phone and the last image of its owner showed they were in danger. Would you drop the phone or would you jump down the rabbit hole in pursuit? That is the question posed by Sara is Missing.
Last year I had the pleasure of playing the unique adventure game Her Story, in which you search through a Police database for interviews about a missing person investigation. It’s a phenomenal and innovative game, one where you must pay attention every word spoken as it may have a crucial clue in the investigation, which in turn leads you to another interview and closer to the truth…or to confusion.
It’s not a typical adventure by any means and I thought it would be the only game of its style that I would play in a long time. So, imagine my surprise when I find Sara is Missing, a game where you find a missing person’s mobile phone and must piece together what happened to the titular Sara, the phone’s owner.
But you’re not on your own. You have the game’s version of Siri, Iris, an AI advanced enough to want to find its owner, and with the ability to restore corrupt parts of the phone’s memory and operating system.
As you read through Sara’s private messages, emails and read her notes, if something catches your eye, you can tap and hold on the screen and tell Iris that you’ve found something potentially interesting. Of course, not every term is relevant and often you’ll just hear a buzz, forcing you to try again, and again, and again. It can sometimes get a bit frustrating.
It can take a while to get to that next crucial clue, but soon enough you’ll be diving into the real mystery, almost drawn from the creepiest of creepy pasta you can imagine. What you discover, what you see happening and even the phone’s behaviour become freaky and disturbing. The phone will ring, you will receive calls where you just hear groans on the other side and even more strange happenings.
I’ve already cleared it once, with a less than stellar result. I’m now trying my second playthrough, hoping to not only get a different ending but perhaps dig deeper into the mysteries, as I ended with very few answers. There were some crucial answers tied to specific choices that I didn’t make, and in fact, my lack of choice led to the most disturbing and frankly awesome moment.
Have I mentioned one of Sara’s emails has perhaps one of the most awesome analyses of Ghost in the Shell and the implications of cyborg bodies in human development, both on a biological and societal level? It’s riveting stuff.
If you’re into creepy stories and investigative games, you should play Sara is Missing. You can find it on the app store or on the developer’s sites with a price tag of “whatever you want.” Some parts of the game will genuinely screw with your head. It’s on the short side for an adventure, but it’s still impressive.
I first heard about this game during this year’s BAFTAs, where they nominated it in pretty much every category. It won the Best British Game and Mobile & Handheld awards. Once I finished watching the awards, I decided to buy the game on the Google Play Store and I even got the expansion pack.
As this is a mobile game, you control everything through taps and swipes. You tap on the screen to where you want the princess to move and you swipe to interact with the environment. There are cranks to turn, and segments of the environment with small stubs on them that you can move horizontally, vertically or even rotate the stage, to help the princess move along the monuments. Each level ends when you approach a certain tile and the character places an increasingly intricate geometrical piece on it, the Sacred Geometry, which is central to the plot, which I won’t comment on due to its simplicity. Anything I say will ruin it for you.
The mechanics are simple but the stages will take some trial and error as you learn to properly navigate them and make use of the different movable pieces. I’m certain one of the inspirations for this game were the works of M.C. Escher, as you have to take perspective into consideration. For example, something that is far away can be an adjacent platform if you turn the camera in a particular way. Perspective is central to many of the Monuments. There is one in particular where a door takes you to another one, placed in a different perspective so that now you’re walking on what you thought was a vertical wall. At certain times I had to turn my mobile around just to see things from the character’s new point of view. It was these moments, when the game took perception into consideration, where it truly shined for me and left me awed.
It’s difficult to talk about Monument Valley’s sound as a separate thing to gameplay. There is a soundtrack and the music is beautiful and ranges from subtle soothing melodies to haunting ones and even some upbeat adventure-y tunes, but also every stage is essentially a giant music box and interacting with them generates its own music, from pulling cranks to pressing a button that shifts the entire stage around. It’s almost as if by playing, you’re composing the stage’s music. It didn’t matter what level it was, this always made me smile.
I do wish the stages were longer. This is a game, like many mobile ones, meant for short play bursts and as such, the different monuments take at most ten minutes to complete. The Lost Shore—the 8 level expansion—has longer levels but still not long enough. It doesn’t detract from the marvellous experience, but it did leave me wanting more. Some of the later stages get complicated but as an experienced adventure gamer used to intricate puzzles, I felt as though the game could’ve given me much more than it did.
The visuals are minimalistic but gorgeous. Each monument is a work of art—if I could I would frame and hang them on my wall—that would make M.C. Escher blush, and it’s a joy to watch these music puzzle boxes change and move around to reveal new rooms and alcoves. The developers at ustwo must’ve known this because they added a camera mode for you to turn the world around however you want for screenshots. They even built in some of the more popular Instagram filters.
Monument Valley is a wonderful game, one of the best mobile games I’ve ever played and while I do wish there was much more and a higher difficulty, what is there is breathtaking and you should all play the game right now!