Rehearsals and Returns Reviewed
By Nathaniel Liles
I can’t say I’ve always been a fan of “art games” because it seems that these days the definition of “art” is “random, vaguely topical non sequiturs assembled without connection or reason to make someone think there’s meaning in it”, but I keep coming back to the genre in the hopes that I will eventually find something thought provoking and meaningful. My latest journey into my apparently cold and blackened heart was Rehearsals and Returns, an exploration of conversations that we never get the chance to have, brought to us by Peter Brinson, artist and creator of interactive content. How was it? *sigh* That is a very complicated question, but I’ll give it a shot.
I honestly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, don’t know if I think Rehearsals and Returns was a quality interactive experience. If you’re looking for a video game, this isn’t a video game by most conventional definitions. When the game begins, you enter your name, choose your gender, and pick a control scheme. After that, you’re presented with three Wisdom cards that attach to your very own speech bubble that floats above your head and fades out of existence when you don’t need it. R&R begins in The Staircase, your overworld, at which point you choose a door labeled with a person from your past and walk through it. After a brief, boring level of platforming, you meet the person and have a very short conversation. The pieces of wisdom are your very first and most basic conversational options when you reach the end of that first level, and after the level is over, you’re back to the overworld. As you progress, you can collect love and hate cards of various power that span from Love 1’s phrase, “It’s not terrible to see you” to the later Hate cards that threaten violence. You choose a door, you play a short level, and you talk to someone from your past. Celebrities and political figures from the past and present are also encountered, but the gameplay never changes. The entire point of this game is getting the chance to choose a predetermined conversational option in response to a generic cookie-cutter non-specific phrase from a historical figure. At the end of the game, you’re taken through all of your choices and you get to see how your choices compare to the choices of others. R&R looked very interesting, though, but the scribbles and glitch aesthetic didn’t stand up throughout the game, and by the end it just looked like the developer wasn’t trying. So; did I enjoy my experience?
Not at all. Sure, the game was saying that I was meeting George W. Bush or Yoko Ono, but the phrases said by each person are exactly the same. Aside from context, there’s absolutely no difference between each person, and in the end, the only moments of the game that made an impact were the ones that reintroduce me to someone from my past. Even then, picking one of three polarized conversational options wasn’t emotionally explorative at all, and instead of feeling like I was with the person again, I felt like I was playing a pretentious card game. The ending was pretty cool, I have to admit, but the “Alternate Versions” of the game provide nothing but different people with the same conversations attached. If you missed your chance to grab this while it was free, save your money. It currently costs $1, and in a week it’ll cost $5. It’s not worth either of those prices, and if you want to go on a more powerful artistic exploration of your own soul, just sit down with a piece of paper, and write a letter to that person you miss. Write a letter to your childhood bully or John Lennon. Don’t send it. You’ll have a more interesting and meaningful experience. Rehearsals and Returns was a waste of my time, and I think any artistic meaning it may have had during development was wasted with a lazy assembly of too few ideas.
[Google][pinterest][follow id=”Cliqist” size=”large” count=”true” ]
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/nathaniel.jpg” ] Nathaniel Liles is a freelance writer, writing major, and indie musician based in Southern Indiana. While procrastinating or avoiding real-world responsibility, Nathaniel enjoys playing rhythm games, action RPGs, and very colorful games with many bright, flashing lights. You can listen to Nathaniel sing songs or download his music for free at http://nathanielliles.bandcamp.com/. [/author]