Thursday, 27 December 2012

Thirty Flights of Loving

When playing Brendon Chung's short game Thirty Flights of Loving I can't help but be reminded of the sporadic energy which seemed to enthuse the early films of Jean-Luc Godard. A florescent mixture of ideas, influences and oblique storytelling propels this short into a dream-like state which crosses in an out of playful parody, postmodernist tangles and artful themes of memory, love and loss. In equal measures it plays out as a heist, a love story and a dream. Yet at its heart Thirty Flights of Loving remains a fun and inventive piece of interactive fiction.

So what exactly is all this? A story really. A short story. Told from the perspective of one of three protagonists the events unfold non-linearly; reflecting, repeating and skewing a series of events into what can only be assumed is some kind of dream or collapsing memory. And yet it's best not to assume at all and instead engage with the story in your own way. The lack of dialogue or direct address throughout the game allows the player to appreciate the events, settings and characters free from the dramatic constraints of a more straightforward approach.

Here is essentially where the game's interactivity occurs: in deciphering the story. This, understandably, will irritate some players. As has been mentioned by a far more experienced writer than this one, Thirty Flights of Loving essentially races you to the end - each moment feels like the player is being shuttled towards the inevitable. Not that this is particularly unusual or 'wrong' for a game to do, but here it can feel like you're merely watching the strange events unfold without truly engaging with them. Like a dream perhaps.

And yet by stripping away the more game-y mechanics of his last entry in this series-of-sorts - Gravity Bone (I would suggest playing it before Thirty Flights) - Chung has distilled the overall strangeness into an excitingly singular piece of storytelling. Fun, frantic, weird and utterly unique this game stays in the mind far beyond the brief time it takes to play.

Thirty Flights of Loving is available from Blendo Games for $5, Gravity Bone is available for free.

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