Bientôt l’été, the latest game by Tale of Tales, is trying to place the medium in a light fit for scrutinizing eyes and retaining the complexity of a French film that is, at least, oozing with ostentatious sounds and visions to create an immersive experience that discusses the triviality and excellence of our lives, loves, and the futures as humans.
The game is explicitly stated as, “A Game That is Not Meant to Be Won.” And is in this reviewer’s eyes—it is not a game at all, and would prefer it to be classified as an, “Interactive Experience.” With little objective data to show for gameplay, and no win or lose parameters it is unlikely players will sharpen skills at anything whilst playing, but will rather heighten their awareness of their surroundings and appreciate the small things we all take for granted in exploration.
The game features full 3-D support for those with the hardware, although it is not necessary. The game also comes in two packages from off the website. For $10 you can buy the game for PC and Mac. For a whopping $40 you can buy a special build of the game with exclusive textures and uncompressed sound, and this package also comes with the game’s soundtrack.
Players start their game’s by selecting an Avatar resting in an incubation pod. Tale of Tales has cut the bull and made it easy to figure it out however crass. Selecting the pod on the right, the ambiguous figure resting with the large breasts, yields players with a blonde woman with red sunglasses as their avatar. The alternative is a brunette man whose mouth and chin are garbed. Both characters are dressed in all white.
Upon selection, players are put on the beach of a planet and expected to walk across the shore. The words of lovers’ conversations slowly fill your screen as you observe the soft splashing waves. The entire game world has an interplay with the elegant ornate pleasures of the Romantic period and the future era of technological dominance. The sky can be as bright and indistinguishable from the sand. At night, an impressive effect describable as a granular layer covers the screen.
This strange planet is also fortuned with planets and stars that can cross the sky at a fantastic speed, which is truly a spectacle when you come across it. The small section of playable world also has these apparitions that, when interacted with, activate a cut-scene that embellishes the beauty of that object. From a lump of coal to a sprouting tree. Each one drops an item that will be used later.
There is only one other thing to do in this game besides observe the beach and sky, and find these apparitions. It ties the game together and confuses more still. It is the cafe, presented as a building on the world map (any building, be it château or a humble shoppe) allows players to interact with a randomly selected player online.
Using the chess pieces found by apparitions, players take turns placing their pieces on the chess board. Each space also represents a phrase that was heard on the beach’s waves and is spoken to the other player upon placement. You can place your pieces anywhere to say what you wish. Alternatively you can have a drink of wine, and smoke a cigarette. The other payer will respond to you and it will be your turn again. Together, the two make a connection across time, space, the Internet, and the game unlike something known before. Imagine a muddled dating simulator that just lets lets players say prefixed lines. Since you can be playing with anyone, the romance is lost, and yet, players will be ultimately drawn for a favorable respons.
Another value fleeting from this demonstration is the innocuous feeling when returning back and forth from beach to cafe only to find no one else playing and taking the simulator on a date, which happens a lot. As of writing this, the game is a month old. It is uncertain how much this game will pick up in momentum, and even still, it’s hardly a validating experience when constantly swapping partners. Less is more—explore more and expect nothing from your placement of pieces on the chest board.
Michaël Samyn, one of the head creators of the game has a blog that has stopped receiving many new posts since mid-December. Here he discusses triumphs, dreams, uncertainties, inspirations, and many other things that brought the game to life. One entry that comes to mind describes his target audience, and can partly explain why this experience has no finite sense of progression:
“One of the reasons why our culture is flooded with loud banality is that the people who enjoy silence and integrity are, in fact, silent. They do not talk. They do not participate in the collective circus of capitalism. They do not vote on things. Because they believe making a competition out of everything is demeaning. So what they believe in always loses.”
This also helps explain why Tale of Tales has cut away at fundamental gaming paradigms, like score and deaths, but still doesn’t clearly explain why this medium was the preferred choice. It seems like video games were chosen as a new frontier for an original idea, but something about reading this “game’s” critical acclaim, receiving the glory of, “video game art” truly urks the mind and heart.
This is not a bad game, but it also is not close to the best foot forward the medium has to offer as an argument. It receives an unnecessary amount affection for something it is intentionally trying not to emulate. And to have this game or any other like it, whose stories genuinely outweigh the game-mechanics and objective rules, is an emotional piece that deserves its own category so as not to disrupt or confuse gamers and people alike from the ongoing conversation of video games as an art form.