Game Review #6: Serene and beautiful, A narrative poem in 8-bit art

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A House in California

Download Play (Free): http://cardboardcomputer.com/games/a-house-in-california/
Play Online : http://www.kongregate.com/games/racter/a-house-in-california

(I highly recommend playing the downloadable version, since this game SHOULD be played full-screen.)

A House in California, despite its rather.. ordinary name, (there are plenty of houses in California, aren’t there) is a game unique and unlike any other. As such, it was nominated as the finalist for the Nuovo Award in IGF.

In short, I’d say that this game does not bring nostalgia, but is nostalgia itself.

Inspired by real stories of the game developer’s relatives, this game is serene and beautiful. The developer states that this game is a “narrative”–but rather, it’s closer to a poem. The game DOES have a storyline, but it’s not integrated as it would in a story. Rather, each story is consecutive but disconnected at the same time, letting the player connect them as if they would read through different stanzas in a poem.

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A player can take 6 kinds of actions, which leads to curious outcomes. It’s up to the player to explore through the world, and discover what lies beyond the darkness.

Right. I forgot to mention the darkness.

Black space pervade the whole game. It’s nighttime, and.. I’d say, it adds to the beauty of the game. Maybe it’s related to the fact that this game is based on a lost memory–you know, something that really happened but not there anymore. Time can blur certain memories, and a lot of it would be lost. Nevertheless, something that was special to you would strike your mind–maybe the old house and the streetlight, shining bright through darkness, was one of those things for the storyteller of the game.

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8-bit art also adds to the unique nostalgic quality of the game. I mentioned about how 8-bit art can allow more imagination for players in this article; it also seems to work like that here. The abstract quality of 8-bit art amplifies the serene simplicity of the game, and it may also refer to how memories are simplified and blurred as time goes by. You might remember a house, but not really sure how it used to look like.

Well, in short, play it. It’s a beautiful game. It’s better to play it during the night, fulllscreen with the lights off–just like how you’d play horror games.

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