The lights are on
Each year when I explore the show floor at GDC, I always try
to check the IGF finalist section. Some of the games the show has featured have
already made names for themselves, such as Don't Starve, Device 6, and Papers,
Please, but it also provides a chance to get a peek behind the curtain at games
that developers are currently working on.
Most of these games are brimming with innovative ideas you
just don't see every day. This year, a game called Paralect immediately caught
my eye. Not only because it was a nominee for excellence in narrative at this
year's IGF awards (mind you, the first USC, student-based game to get into the
main competition), but also because its simple nature just drew me in. One
minute, you're controlling a figure that's walking across words, the next
you're platforming, trying to solve small puzzles to open up new places to
Paralect has you scouring strange places in black and white.
You don't know the people or rules; every time you try to communicate it's like
a riddle. This is deliberate. Paralect's creative director Loan Verneau wanted
something to reflect his experience of moving from one country to another in
his youth. It no doubt shaped him as a person and the way he perceives cultural
Since moving away from his home country of France at eight, Verneau
has lived in numerous places, including Switzerland, China, and Japan. "This
has been described as the 'global nomad' phenomena by some, people with no
national origins due to them living in so many cultures," Verneau says. "I
wondered if there was a way for me to create a game that could recreate these
experiences, and I started working on Paralect."
Paralect started as an idea for his thesis project while attending
USC, but since then many others have joined up pro bono to turn it into
something more. "Working with a team full of students has unique
complications, but Loan's vision was strong enough to pull a bunch of people
together to create something cohesive and meaningful," says producer Andrea
While I was playing Paralect, I was taken back. The game is
hard to categorize; it's immediately striking, with a surrealist vibe, and it's
clear there's so much more going on than what's on the surface. Verneau sums it
up as, "the fusion between a surrealist autobiography, an experimental game,
and a personal statement on dealing with cultural differences."
In Paralect, you're born into this strange world called
Cobblepot, but you slowly make your way out of your town. During my time, I
platformed my way through obstacles and used the colorful people around me to
advance past barriers. For instance, certain areas were blocked off, but if I
did a favor for someone they were more than happy to let me through. Each
person you interact with enters you into a storybook-like monologue, and you
must jump on words to progress. Some of these stories have different threads,
so you can make a choice between two different words by hitting the spacebar,
like what you want to name a dog, or choosing between different characters both
looking to woo the same lady.
What's immediately evident is how well the gameplay ties to
the story. Platforming my way through shifting structures like a rotating house
is one thing, but meeting new people and having them help me persevere is
stimulating for the story. "The first
ten minutes usually take people aback, but once you are past the first paradigm
shift, you are immersed in the phantasmagorical universe of Paralect," Verneau
says. "It's not a game for everyone, but if you are crazy enough, or
open-minded enough, you will discover giant worlds filled with humor, secrets,
Paralect is unlike anything I've ever played, and that's
what keeps drawing me back it. The simple nature and focus on exploration kept
me in the world. I was captured with the wonderment. It definitely is different and that's what
makes it work. "The game has no enemies, no explicit player goals besides
discovery, and a whimsical cast of weird and wonderful folks," Verneau says. If
that's enough to draw you in, it's worth your time.
Right now, you can try a demo of Paralect here for free. The team plans to release a full version
eventually. "There is a release window in mind," teases designer Bryan Edelman.
Verneau takes the tease one step further responding, "There is? Oh yeah, there
is...or is there? If there is, it probably is that we promise not to release
the full version this summer. Still a lot to work on, including a few surprises
and story twists!"
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
So maybe they will announce a release date for sometime this holiday season...? I really hope so, because reading this article got me excited for this game.
As art these screens look cool. But after hours I think they would start to bring mme down mentally.