I’m a bit miffed. I just finished my latest game, called “Bars of Black and White.” It’s an intentionally roughly-drawn first-person point-and-click puzzling game. To celebrate, I decided to finally play Jonas Kyratzes’s latest game, which to my dismay turned out to be a roughly-drawn first-person point-and-click puzzling game. And it was better than mine.
The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge is the newest game by the creator of titles like The Museum of Broken Memories and Last Rose in a Desert Garden. Of course, it’s not really a game; it’s a “transdimensional portal to the Lands of Dream,” according to the premise. And it’s a great experience.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d just played Myst and Dare to Dream, and you found Hypercard on your school computers, and you decided to make an adventure game? And it was going to be the coolest game ever, with all sorts of secrets and jokes and you spent hours drawing the backgrounds in a wide-ruled spiral notebook?
No? Maybe that was just me. Anyway, this is that game. It’s colored in crayon (or maybe oil pastels), it’s silly, and it isn’t afraid to joke around. You’ll encounter references and in-jokes to such things as Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series, the “Fallout” games, Half-Life 2, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Babylon 5, Tolkien, Kyratzes’s other games, and Bob the Spider. The inventory screen contains such verbs as “smell” and “gerbelize.” Every dialog screen has an “Eat” button, which sometimes comes a bit loose. The game menu itself is an inventory item. This is a silly game.
But it’s good. The humor is actually cute and funny, not “oh, ha ha” trying-to-be-funny like, say, Broken Sword. The art, although simple, is charming and colorful. The characters are well-rendered and lovable. The music, done by previously-unknown-to-me musician and apparent faepirate Helen Trevillion, is cute, and some pieces, such as the subtle choral upstairs variation of the theme, qualify as gorgeous. The ending is delightful. And Bob the Spider.
It seems that the game hasn’t gotten much attention, and that’s a shame. This is a game (excuse me, a portal) that has what so many modern digital games lack: a love of the medium and a willingness to be serious and silly at the same time. The closest games that I can think of are Cyan’s The Manhole and Cosmic Osmo. However, this is not a children’s game, as the disclaimer on Kyratzes’s site rather defensively declares. To be more specific, it’s not aimed at physical children, but at children that happen to have gotten older over the years. You should play this game, and you should tell your friends about this game.
Excuse me. I mean, about this interdimensional portal to the Land of Dream.