The Sailor’s Dream

EDGE - - PLAY - IOS Out now Si­mogo

Let go. In Si­mogo’s sixth game, this short in­struc­tion isn’t merely ask­ing you to re­move your fin­ger from the screen, but invit­ing you to sub­mit your­self to the sea, to be swept along by its tides. It feels like an ex­hor­ta­tion, too. As the frag­ments of the game’s nar­ra­tive drift to­wards one another, the mem­o­ries held in the cu­rios scat­tered across its is­lands feel ever more like an un­re­li­able crutch; though thoughts of the past can help us es­cape, they can equally hold us cap­tive.

The ocean you nav­i­gate is re­mark­ably calm, the del­i­cate lap­ping of waves ac­com­pa­nied by the whirring clicks of nau­ti­cal equip­ment as you glide ef­fort­lessly across the sur­face, with just a hint of re­sis­tance as you draw clear from an is­land. Point your com­pass to­wards a shore and you’ll hear the wooden creak of your boat’s hull as you phys­i­cally drag your­self in­land. And yet as you ne­go­ti­ate the old, aban­doned struc­tures that hold the game’s many small se­crets, you’ll drift through them as if in a mel­low rev­erie.

Th­ese are won­der­ful places to briefly in­habit, per­fectly im­per­fect in their ar­range­ments, with each car­ry­ing the qui­etly haunt­ing in­trigue of an af­ter­noon spent sift­ing through bric-a-brac in an aban­doned loft. Rooms, stair­wells and cor­ri­dors are filled with ethe­real Un­til now, Si­mogo has been known for its stylish – and stylised – 2D vi­su­als, but clever use of depth-of-field ef­fects and par­al­lax scrolling give you the im­pres­sion of ex­plor­ing a fully 3D space in whis­pers and chimes, as well as the gor­geous acous­tic themes of Jonathan Eng. You’ll hear the mu­si­cal pat­ter of rain­drops on win­dow panes, a gull’s echo­ing cry, the hiss and crackle of ra­dio static, and a rum-soaked old voice, weath­ered by time and tragedy. You may not be a tan­gi­ble pres­ence in the world, but th­ese places feel lived-in, their am­bi­ence lent emo­tional weight by the his­tory at­tached to the ob­jects found therein.

Yet the plot is hardly opaque. This isn’t a mys­tery, nor a puz­zle to be solved. Rather, the key events of the nar­ra­tive take shape early on, and are sub­se­quently con­tex­tu­alised and im­bued with deeper mean­ing. It’s a tale with a song in its heart and ro­mance in its soul, its wist­ful, melan­cholic rem­i­nis­cences in­ter­spersed with a note of bit­ter­sweet op­ti­mism. Other de­vel­op­ers might have opted for a big­ger emo­tional punch as you fi­nally pre­pare to leave the past be­hind, but the sub­tly mov­ing coda here is an ex­em­plar of sto­ry­telling ma­tu­rity.

For some, a bold at­tempt to bridge the gap be­tween the game world and ours may only serve to em­pha­sise the dis­tance, while the un­ortho­dox struc­ture may irk those who pre­fer their nar­ra­tives neatly pack­aged up. But aban­don your ex­pec­ta­tions of what a game is and how a story should be told, and this lyri­cal, wil­fully elu­sive ex­pe­ri­ence will stay with you, lin­ger­ing with the warmth and sor­row of a part­ing embrace. To give in to its spell, you just need to let go.

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