11-11: Memories Retold
PS4, Xbox One, PC
The first full-length video game from Aardman Animations commemorates the centenary of the first world war armistice, and its mission is to provide insight into that terrible conflict – primarily for a generation that might not be aware of the details. It takes an impressionistic approach, employing a “living painting” visual effect inspired by the paintings of Turner, and the tone is contemplative and regretful rather than gung-ho. It has a fable-like quality.
The game follows two characters on opposing sides: Canadian Harry and German Kurt. Uniquely for a first world war game, neither wields a gun at any point: Harry is a photographer, Kurt an engineer. Their stories unfold month by month, from Canada to Vimy, eventually becoming entwined. This is by no means an action game: Harry takes photos, Kurt eavesdrops on the enemy from spy tunnels dug beneath trenches, and sometimes both work together in occasionally clunky, laborious puzzles. There’s a lot of walking around, taking in the atmosphere and, often, trying to figure out what to do next.
The game captures, from two perspectives, something of what it must have been like to fight. At roughly six hours, it isn’t long, but it is affecting – it sensitively illuminates the subject while covering an awful lot of ground, offering a snapshot of the prevailing sensibilities, some of which may shock younger players. It muses on the futility and psychological effect of war without becoming too heavy or overbearing.