It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our two-week short play column, we propose video games that can be started and ended in a weekend.
Video games and films are fairly diametrically opposed media, despite game developers' attempts to emulate the visual medium of film. The problem is that games are interactive while movies are passive. When games try to emulate films, they are often non-interactive cutscenes in a media about interactivity. In big budget games like Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us and Final Fantasy, this has become the way a story is told. But there are also games like Wide Ocean Big Jacket that take techniques from the film and apply them to their interactivity instead of a cutscene. It's enough to wish you had more games like this.
Wide Ocean Big Jacket follows 13-year-old teenagers Mord and Ben, long-time friends who have recently started dating, while camping overnight with Murder & # 39; s uncle Brad and aunt Cloanne. What unfolds over the course of the night is the awkwardness of ex-tweens, less of a child than of an adult, of dealing with the world around them, along with the adults who are awkward of dealing with ex-tweens to whom they are concerned children are used. It becomes even more uncomfortable when you consider how these interactions affect each couple's relationship.
What I noticed is not the story itself (which is pretty good), but the way it is told. You control no particular character. Instead, you act more as a director of the scene. All of the decisions you need to make are less about changing the words or the path of the narrative than the experience you have had while viewing. It's something like "Thirty Flights of Love" or "Virginia", both of which use film techniques like cross-cutting to jump between moments in history, combined with aspects of the Kentucky Route Zero player co-authoring the interactive storytelling is approaching.
A good example of this is a technique that the game uses frequently, a kind of circular shot. The camera is perhaps best known for its use in That’s 70s show. It is located at a fixed location in a scene and can be redesigned at certain people or locations in the area if requested by the player. It is used at the start of the game (and you can see it in the trailer above around 0:13 p.m.). The camera is in Uncle Brad's car, looking at him and Cloanne through the car's windshield as they check a billboard at the campsite. Pressing the right pans the camera to murder sitting in the back seat of the car behind the passenger seat. Pressing right again pivots to Ben, and pressing again brings him back to Brad and Cloanne in the distance. If you press left anywhere, it will pan in the opposite direction.
In this case, camera movement is used to choose whether you want Murder or Ben to talk about something. However, changes to the scenes between the dialogs are also displayed. A moment later in the game, while one of the characters is telling a scary story, the story is interrupted by moments where you can swing around to see the characters' physical reactions being told after each new part of the story circling around the campfire.
What helps sell the cuts between these moments is that the dialog appears as white text on a darkened screen that is separate from each scene you were looking at. It's like something you might see in a silent movie, with the character's name and a symbol of his face, so you know who is speaking. The darkened screens allow the game to switch scenes between different times or locations without orienting themselves.
It's an apparently small technique, but it shows how Wide Ocean Big Jacket uses interactivity to be engaging and haunting, even though you don't solve puzzles or make dramatic narrative decisions. Instead, you are invested in history by becoming a participant.
Wide Ocean Big Jacket was created by Turnfollow. You can get it for $ 7.99 on the Nintendo Switch, Itch.io (Windows, MacOS, and Linux), or Steam (Windows and MacOS). It takes approximately an hour or two for the process to complete.