Frequent readers may notice that a list of the games I have developed is included at the end of each of my articles. This is germane to today’s review, since today’s review is both a review of a game and a review of the effect a game had on me, an effect that might not have hit home had I never developed a game before.
Over the course of my life thus far, I have developed a growing cynicism toward not only the video game industry, but video games themselves. As time wore on, I found interest in fewer and fewer titles, with only the most polished and complex appealing to my increasingly narrow sensibilities. Around a year ago, I realized that my problem lay not in any lack of quality or merit in the games available, but rather in the degree to which games in existing genres resembled each other. Because of this change of perspective, a new point of view replaced the original: only a scant few of the games I played presented a major departure from existing norms and “conventional wisdom.”
This outlook motivates the bizarre choices I make in creating my games.
My ultimate concern is not whether my games will be disregarded for being odd, but rather whether or not my games are odd enough to represent a unique design. “Membrane” presented me with questions I needed the answers to: At what point is a game “different enough” to be entertaining? What pitfalls need be avoided to make a game truly “special?” Most pressingly of all, what does it take to make a thoroughly original game interesting enough to justify the player’s investment in it?
“Membrane” makes use of typical “special” indie game design, throwing two seemingly random concepts together to create a semi-original style of play. Although it is original to an indeterminate degree, it can be described in simple terms as a physics-based puzzle-platformer. The player character can shoot either small red blocks or small yellow triangles in any direction; blocks stick to each other, as well as walls and floors, whereas triangles “dissolve” blocks and push objects. Blocks come in limited supply, so efficient construction of simplistic block “devices” (such as circuits, bridges, walls, ramps, etc.) is necessary, as is liberal use of triangles to recover used blocks.
The player controls a signal traveling from the brain to the hand of a human body via the nervous
system, stopping at each level along the way. This “Fantastic Voyage” framing device is played alongside a cookie-cutter psychedelic palette and nonsense minimalist trance music to establish the same audiovisual character that Adult Swim bumpers used years ago. The player character even resembles Pyramid Head from “Silent Hill 2.”
Right off the bat, the audio, visuals, narrative and gameplay of “Membrane” show themselves to be typical, typical, typical and bordering-on-typical. What I personally found so interesting about “Membrane” was how the process of actively playing it became subconscious while previously subconscious thought and reflection rose to the surface and became the active effort; think of it as studying while listening to music. While “Membrane” itself was built upon a core I’d call half-original at best, my experience playing it was wholly special. I wouldn’t entirely recommend it, but it might be worth getting on sale.
Gaget is a student in Fairbanks public schools and has developed and published four games, “BORINGCORRIDOR,” “Accelerant,” “HouseThatJackBuilt “ and “userMendacious.” He is a neutral game reviewer.
If You Play
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Internet Usage (accounts for download size): 398 MB
ESRB Rating: E
Release Date: Feb. 22, 2018
Genre (if applicable): Puzzle-platformer
Developer: Perfect Hat