After trying so many cool and oddball indies games last week, I took it upon myself to search for a few more over the weekend. During this journey, I had a brief moment of self-reflection and realized that I generally choose games to cover the same way I would mulling over a rental at a video store. I awkwardly stare at covers for way too long, then daydream for a bit, then check the time, then something finally jumps out at me. I suppose that doesn’t make me much different from anyone else, though I’ve started to make a conscious effort to be a little more random and take some risks, often knowing that I’ll likely forget whatever it was I downloaded a few days (or hours) later.
Off-Peak had been sitting in a folder for a while, along with a few others that I’d put on the back-burner. Every day I’d look at the name, ponder it for a second to see if I’d remembered anything about it, even if so much as just a screenshot, and then move on to something else. Finally fed up with my own inaction, I caved in, starting up the game essentially blind.
A short first person adventure, you’re tasked with finding the pieces of a ticket scattered around a train station in an attempt to get… somewhere. Upon entering the station, I immediately forgot what I was doing, if I was even doing anything at all. It all hit me at once – the scale, the people, the odd art pieces that seemed to fill every corner of my vision, I couldn’t stop looking at it. It’s easily one of, if not the most visual arresting experiences I’ve seen all year. I wanted to run around and tear down every single thing within reach so that I could immediately hang it up on my wall, often frozen with indecision between the desire to stay and linger on something or rush to see what was around the next corner.
In spite of my character’s desire to get on that train, I found myself not wanting to ever leave, something comforting about being surrounded by that aesthetic, by that jazzy music, by those characters and their seemingly mundane exteriors that were clearly hiding something much darker. Putting together that ticket was secondary to my own curiousity about the place I was in. Is this a destination for wanderers? Do people just end up here? Why are some of them giant? Is that normal in this world? What else is in this world? Will I ever get to see it?
Also, am I going to get in trouble for stealing that pizza? Who is that one lonely girl in the game room playing against?
It’s both the gift and the curse of games like this. They leave you wanting for so much more, but you know you’ll probably never get it, left to ponder things on your own, attempting to put together the pieces in whatever version of the world you created inside your own head.
My head is full of a lot of stuff right now. At least there’s good music to keep it company.