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Indie Game Spotlight: Atum

While wandering the showfloor at GDC, I chanced upon this delightful little indie gem. Now I can't get it out of my mind, so I thought I'd put it into yours.

Atum was developed by a group of students from NHTV IGAD's University Gamelab in the Netherlands. The game starts players in a first-person perspective in a stark grey room. In one corner you can see a TV and couch, and in another a desk and a PC. The player wanders the room for a second and then settles down at his desk and starts up a game. This is what makes Atum interesting; it's about a game within a game. It's all very meta, or post-modern, or whatever other fancy term they're using in art school these days.

The game within the game is a platformer starring a white silhouette of a man who seems to be running from something. As you run and jump through this 2D world, you start to confront certain obstacles that you can't overcome on your own, and you have to jump outside of the game into the virtual first-person world and look for objects that will help you progress.

For example, at one point in the platformer, the surrounding areas become too dark to navigate, so I looked around the virtual office and found a lighter, which I held up to the virtual monitor and the darkened areas lit up. A nearby cigarette could also be used to create a smokescreen to help sneak by a security camera, while magnets could be used to pick up large metal objects.

The best part about Atum is that it's playable right now online for free, so stop listening to me ramble about the game and check it out for yourself. Personally, I found the game charming, but the gameplay lacked a certain amount of polish. However, it's important to remember that this is more of a student project than a final game, and as a student project it's a great example of the potential of the video game industry to create compelling experiences. I hope the group of students at Sassybot Studio continues to work on the project for a possible retail release.

ATUM was a Student Showcase finalist of the 2013 Independent Games Festival, which took place during the 2013 Game Developers Conference.

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