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Mini review: Photopia

by Rexx Magnus

Posted 25 August 2005 to

Ok, I know this is quite old, but there's a lot of games that I haven't played—I don't seem to sit down and play as many as I'd like to, there's always too much else to do.

Having heard people talking about them quite often, I downloaded Galatea and Photopia. I gave up with Galatea a few minutes after starting it (not a reflection on the game, mind you—simply on my own tastes) as I realised that it would be largely about NPC interaction. I never get on with talking to NPCs unless there's some kind of menu system; I can never think of which topics I should try to discuss next after each section of dialogue.

Anyway, I then opted to try Photopia.

"Oh no, this is going to be similar," I think. Not so. After I realise there's actually very little to do at the beginning, and that this game is narrative driven—I relax into it.

Not wanting to give spoilers, my general view of the game (as I played it) seemed to be that it was about a few different people. As I got near the middle, I began to realise which of the characters I was playing, and how they were slowly becoming linked.

Near the end I found myself becoming rather attached to one of the characters, and I knew what was going to happen. The anticipation of the event was almost gut wrenching.

The story then hops back to an earlier time (or so I assume) and explains a part of it that had seemed a little surreal.

I'm not sure if there are multiple endings in Photopia (anyone know, or is it just the one?) but I really wanted to find out how the one event turned out, as it seemed from one of the scenes that the outcome would not have been good. Whether this particular thread is left hanging or not would be interesting to know.

It is appropriate that the thread imagery popped into my head just then, as the overall layout of the story appears to be a complex weave, where you travel along the thread as it makes its way in one direction, turns around and comes back, crossing the previous parts of the weave and then continues.

The game breaks mimesis a few times, but it is not done in a particularly jarring manner. If you don't have a wide vocabulary, the mimesis breaking ends up becoming an English teacher. If you've forgotten a particular item, it does it then—but this can be explained once you reach the end.

In summary, this game is like an interactive story nestled inside another. A russian doll. A woven russian doll at that.

I'd probably give it an 8/10

This article copyright © 2005, Rexx Magnus

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