The Void

Star­ing awk­wardly into The Void


Iwanted to re­turn to as what was once an idio­syn­cratic ex­pe­ri­ence now feels like it be­longs to a trend. There were weird games be­fore The Void, of course. But there’s some­thing spe­cific here – an in­ter­est in ex­plor­ing the in­ner life of a per­son, and specif­i­cally a com­pul­sion to let the player en­ter a di­a­logue with their own val­ues, and even more specif­i­cally a de­ci­sion to ex­press this with bursts of colour, that I reckon we can iden­tify as a theme. In a good way!

You’ve died, and your soul lingers in, well, the Void, an ex­panse of beau­ti­ful, dream­like and uni­formly bleak en­vi­ron­ments that span a stick­ily or­ganic web of un­der­world. In these en­vi­ron­ments your task is to find and ma­nip­u­late liq­uid colour, trans­form­ing it within your own body into a tool that you can use to grow gar­dens, at­tack crea­tures and de­fend your­self. Each colour rep­re­sents some as­pect of self­hood, and each has its own voice. There are echoes of the ace up­com­ing RPG Disco Ely­sium, here, as well as Tor­ment: Tides of Numen­era.

There’s a lot to un­pack and dis­cover. There are cre­ative mon­ster de­signs and ahead-of-their-time acts of de­sign sleight of hand. De­spite a slow start and a will­ing­ness to force you to re­tread ar­eas, dis­cov­er­ing how

The Void’s sys­tems work – how to take best care of your gar­dens, how to ma­nip­u­late mon­sters and how to plan your use of colour from cham­ber to cham­ber – has, dare I say it, a Dark Souls- ian ap­peal. As such, this is a game that feels des­tined to elicit gush­ing tes­ti­mo­ni­als from crit­ics who have grown per­for­ma­tively weary of the norm – par­tic­u­larly a few years ago, when indie was only barely a thing and art games even less so. Hell, I feel that way about it, at times. But I get frus­trated by it, too.


Here’s the prob­lem: I don’t know why the Void is full of naked women. I’m not sure why the coun­ter­part to its mon­ster fac­tion – the hulk­ing, imag­i­na­tively con­ceived Brothers – are un­canny val­ley-ad­ja­cent Sis­ters who re­ward do­na­tions of colour with a bit of sexy ex­is­ten­tial danc­ing. Ex­cept, you know what, I know

ex­actly why. And this isn’t an ar­gu­ment against sex or nu­dity in art

or in games, but an ar­gu­ment for sex and nu­dity that means some­thing. And I’m not con­vinced that The Void works, in this re­gard, be­cause its Sis­ters feel like they’ve been plucked from some pubescent ex­trem­ity of the Unity As­set Store. They are un­for­giv­ably or­di­nary in a game that else­where de­liv­ers any­thing but – like en­coun­ter­ing Michael McIn­tyre at the bot­tom of Pan’s Labyrinth. Ex­cept now that I think about it that sounds like some undis­cov­ered new fron­tier of hor­ror, and this isn’t.

The Void, for me, stands up as an ex­am­ple how naive games can be even when they’re be­ing smart – and a warn­ing about the temp­ta­tion to write off mis­steps when a game has ideas you want to cel­e­brate. They sta­pled a FHM cen­tre­fold to a Dali paint­ing! Why did they do that?

The Void, for me, stands up as an ex­am­ple how naive games can be

I can’t stress enough how good the rest of the art is.

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