Islands — Non Places

I’ve just started playing a game. If you can call it a game, that is. It’s more of a collection of interactive experiences. Ten or so meditative little atmospheric spaces you can enter into and explore. They’re part puzzle, part soundscape, part screen-based art installations. Kind of like Monument Valley meets Journey.

I’ve never been a huge fan of your conventional run and gun first person shooters. I was never too good at the controls. I also have a short attention span, so I lose focus when there’s a big, complex mission you need to complete over multiple game-playing sessions. This game is the opposite, although it does require some concentration. At first I wanted to click furiously through and have the world explained to me. But then I realised what was going on. The game invites exploration. There’s no right or wrong, per se. Just a series of hints designed to propel you through. After a while, I didn’t want to leave.

The worlds revealed are incredible. All baked in a soft fluorescent glow of various color, the game gives off a Blade Runner 2049 vibe, with a hint of neon noir Twilight Zone flavor. All light and shadow and monotone color. There’s no telling what you might see from level to level.

A bus-stop bathed in fog, descends into the ground.

Giant alien egg pods pulsate with light.

An amorphous squid that lives below a city fountain.

Rain on the inside of a hotel lobby.

Sentient, tropical pine trees riding down on an escalator in a suburban shopping mall.

An array of glowing, gravity-defying soda cans float out of a fridge.

A sinking island. And now you’re underwater.

A subdermal layer of extraterrestrial structures.

Blooming, bioluminescent flowers.

And an ATM machine, for some reason.

The general story structure seems to be as follows — you (whoever you are) find yourself in a strange world. One of the above structures/scenarios is before you. All you might be able to hear is the ambient hum of some city traffic. You’ll hunt around the scene. Chaos descends. And then, things return to normal.

It’s called Islands — Non Places. It’s a masterpiece, and you should check it out.

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