A Review of The Void

Matt Barton's picture

The Void is a new game developed by a Russian team named Ice-Pick Lodge and imported by Mamba Games, a small publisher dedicated to expanding the genre with truly innovative and distinctive games. The game is set for release on October 16th, 2009, and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy to review.

The Void: These hearts need color, and lots of it!The Void: These hearts need color, and lots of it!The Void is a very weird and often disturbing game, and, as might be expected, hard to describe succinctly. The game oozes with deep atmosphere of a mostly surreal and "gothic" like tone, lots of dark colors and aimless, eerie music. The theme is death and dying, but not all is bleak--indeed, the focus of the gameplay is on "color," a substance that has all sorts of different effects when it is drawn upon the screen in shapes called glyphs. The interface is reminiscent of a first-person shooter, with a conventional keyboard layout (WASD for movement; mouse for looking around).

The story is strange, to say the least, involving scantily clad, mystical "sisters" and the demented "brothers," who are apparently the villains in this game. Your character seems to have died, but there are different kinds of death--you haven't died the final one yet and can still escape the void and return to mortal life. This will mean working with the sisters, who can teach you about color and glyphs in exchange for large amounts of color. At least in the initial stages of the game, you spend most of your time traveling around the gloomy world collecting color from small plants; later you can grow and harvest your own color. You will also fight creatures, though these battles seem more dream-like than the sort of intense combat seen in a first-person shooter.

Your character also needs color to survive. Specifically, this means collecting color and placing it into his "hearts." These hearts have different purposes, such as shielding the character or speeding up his movement. They churn through the the color very rapidly, though, and it's very easy to die moving between the pod-like structures of the void. Likewise, there are many different colors, each with its own characteristics. The game introduces them gradually, however, so you don't have to learn everything at once. All in all, it's an intriguing system that is about as far off the beaten path as you can get.

Sister: The Void is often quite erotic.Sister: The Void is often quite erotic.Graphically, the game is quite nice, provided you're into gloom and doom. Some may find the sisters particularly appealing, since they are shown in the nude and portrayed erotically. I'm not saying The Void is pornographic; it's more like the nudes you might find in an art gallery than a skin mag. I actually found it refreshing that the game wasn't afraid to go into such territory; I'm tired of games that show you all sorts of blood and guts but treat nipples like the worst sort of obscenity. (The publisher suggests gamers be 12 or older to play). The voice work is also quite nice, with lots of breathy-toned lines that are often quite poetic if occasionally baffling. At times I was reminded of some of the more surreal moments in the Myst series.

So, is The Void a fun game? Not really, but "fun" is not what this game is about. This is not one I would recommend to Joe Gamer. It's dark, brooding, often slow, and often infuriating. Your hearts really go through the color fast, and your character always seems to move too slowly through the areas (perhaps this is meant to give the feeling of being in a dream). Also, the jumping seems off somehow; you can jump very high, and since it seems faster than walking, you may end up jumping around like a frog, killing some of the mood. My biggest problem with the game, however, is drawing the damn glyphs. It is surprisingly difficult to get them right, and I typically have to redraw a glyph five or six times before it "takes." This gets more frustrating in some parts of the game where you are scolded or punished for not drawing the glyph correctly; you can waste a lot of color that way. I really don't know why the developer made this part of the game so difficult; seems like they could have given you a pattern to trace or at least been less strict on the patterns. I'm harping on it a bit because drawing glyphs is central to the gameplay--I'd be very curious how it'd work on a DS or tablet PC. Indeed, anyone with a beefy tablet PC should definitely check this out; it'd be perfect.

Glyphs: Drawing glyphs is difficult and frustrating.Glyphs: Drawing glyphs is difficult and frustrating.On a positive note, if you're looking for something truly different--a game that takes itself seriously as art and expects a lot of patience and engagement from the player--you might want to give The Void a try. So many people complain these days about how every game is a sequel or clone; here is something that boldly stands out from the crowd. It's really worth buying just to support such efforts! For more information, contact jennie at jennie@capricornpr.com.

Comments

The LxR (not verified)
Good day! I'm Aleksey from

Good day!
I'm Aleksey from Ice-pick Lodge, the developer for the Void, and it would be nice if you'd actually mention us in the article, instead of just saying Russian team. ;)

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Russian Team :)
The LxR wrote:

Good day!
I'm Aleksey from Ice-pick Lodge, the developer for the Void, and it would be nice if you'd actually mention us in the article, instead of just saying Russian team. ;)

Wow, thanks for coming here and commenting, Aleksey. Happy to oblige.

n/a

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