Cut­ting words

Small Is­land Games unites young and old art­forms in this po­etic ad­ven­ture


The po­etic Haiku Ad­ven­ture mixes young and old art­forms

Haiku – a ven­er­a­ble Ja­panese po­etic form with a three-line, 5-7-5 syl­la­ble struc­ture – and the point-and-click ad­ven­ture might seem odd bed­fel­lows, but as Small Is­land Games co-direc­tor Ceri Wil­liams ob­serves, both hinge on an ele­ment of re­flec­tive cu­rios­ity. “What we love about haiku is that ap­par­ently they’re sup­posed to be dis­cov­ered, not writ­ten, which re­ally suits a game about look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion,” he says. The game in ques­tion is PC and mo­bile odyssey Haiku Ad­ven­ture, in which a pil­grim wan­ders sin­gle-screen en­vi­ron­ments, com­pos­ing po­ems by in­ter­act­ing with ob­jects and char­ac­ters to re­veal lines of verse.

The game’s beau­ti­fully wrought land­scapes are based on ukiyo-e wood­block prints – lit­er­ally, “pic­tures of the float­ing world”. Puz­zle out­comes within range from the im­prob­a­ble, such as trig­ger­ing a dis­tant vol­cano to awaken a bird, to the fan­tas­ti­cal: petals form­ing a bridge, for in­stance.

The haiku them­selves are writ­ten by a re­searcher, Amy Butt, in an in­trigu­ing balanc­ing of the needs of poem and game. “They need to have their own rhythm, but they’re also func­tional, me­chan­i­cal things that need to be un­der­stood,” Wil­liams ex­plains. The re­sult may be one of 2019’s more breath­tak­ing spec­i­mens of both vis­ual art and writ­ing.

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