I want to start this off with a quick confession: I couldn’t get into Night in the Woods. It’s probably the most popular game among other writers here on Cliqist, but it just wasn’t for me. So when I first looked at Meredith Gran’s Perfect Tides, I thought this would probably be a great game for someone else to get into. It just wouldn’t be my thing. Then I felt a tug.
Something about Perfect Tides is pulling me in. I want to nail down exactly what that is. I mention Night in the Woods mostly out of obligation, because there are similarities here. Rather than beating that comparison into the ground though, I want to focus on this game as its own piece of media.
I’m Barely Old Enough to Look Back on This, But…
One of the first things I noticed was that I don’t really care for the main character’s design. Mara looks like, well, an awkward high school kid. Given that I happened to look a lot like Mara in my own high school years, it’s pretty messed up that my initial reaction to the character’s design was so lukewarm. It’s a prompt to re-examine the high school self-image with a fresh, hopefully kinder perspective. It may not be a fantstic design, but it is genuine.
Then there’s the way the game functions mechanically. You could call it retro, based on the point-and-click style. I think that’s a bit reductive. The nostalgia evoked by this kind of gameplay isn’t just based on the fact that it’s “old school”. For a lot of nerdy, lonely kids, gamifying the day-to-day into something like a point-and-click is a coping strategy. It’s comforting to feel like that item you picked up or that choice you made is going to have tangible and direct meaning somewhere down the line. When problems are puzzles, it means that there’s a definitive solution. Point-and-clicks aren’t just retro; done well, they’re existential in a way that seeps right into the gameplay.
I’m a little bit in my feelings about this game, but I don’t want to forget to remind folks about its recently launched Kickstarter campaign. You can also follow the game’s official Twitter, or find more of the developer’s work at octopuspie.com.