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Review: Bientôt l'été

Tale of Tales PC indie Bientôt lété

Developer: Tale of Tales
Publisher: Tale of Tales
Platform: PC (Steam, Web)
Release Date: December 12, 2012
ESRB: N/A (Teen suggested)



Over the past year or so, games have become popular without at all being what the mass market is expected to like. Titles such as Journey, Dear Esther, and others are games which barely have any hallmarks of typical games. There’s no shooting up aliens/soldiers/monsters but simply a focus on understanding the story told within the worlds. With acceptance of the “notgame” now in the air, Tale of Tales has released their latest game. Does it manage to pull the same strings that similar games have recently or is it too out there?

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Developer Tale of Tales has never been one to create typical games. Most of their past efforts tell stories in very minimal fashion and have gained an audience. Now with Bientôt l'été, we are brought into an attractive world with little explanation. In fact, most of any explaining has been done by the developer themselves outside of the game. Basically, you are an astronaut in a sleeping chamber. While in there, you are brought into a simulated world which you can explore.

Once you have chosen your gendered avatar, off you go into the alternate reality. This fake space within the game is a beach with waves slowly washing against the shore. It definitely seems like a lovely cyber vacation spot for anyone. As you walk along the beach, words will fade on and off the screen. They seem very odd at first, and do not necessarily correspond to one another. You may also find a building to visit, but otherwise, this beach is not vast.

When you enter the building, you will be brought into a chess game. Interestingly, you may connect with another player online for this period of time, or take a round against the AI. However, you aren’t really playing a chess game. In a way to serve their narrative, the real game is in speaking to the other player. There’s no typing, though. Players use the phrases they have collected on the beach to try and have a conversation over the game of chess.

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As you might expect, it is a little difficult, and also quite a strange experience. In a way, they are giving you an easy way out by using phrases, but then again, they are mostly meaningless without context. They were in fact pulled from the works of French author Marguerite Duras. Players attempt to create meaning with each other before leaving the chess game and returning outside. What is the point of it? It seems to evoke the memory of someone. The longer you are apart, the less you actually remember of a person and what they say and eventually end up with only specific scenes.

Back to the beach, you can explore as long as you like. Bientôt l'été feels more like an interactive plaything at times than a game with narrative. However, that doesn’t mean you will get nothing from it. I felt there was purpose to the game, even if it is one that may be tailored to the creators more than the players. As this is not a typical game, I will speak to my personal experience and why I view it as worthwhile. Others who try it may find it meaningless, but that is up to each person to decide.

For me, once outside in the blinding daylight again, things made less sense than before. As I walked, it became darker, and something shimmered in the sky. It was pretty but not particularly noticeable. Finally, I reached the furthest end of the beach. There was very obviously a wall in the way, but not one of human design. It was a grid of colored lights that separated me from what had not been programmed. That, and a woman who stared back at me from the other side.

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It was at this point I felt the game was not just a digital sandbox. The urge to reach this woman urged me to continue playing and discover other weird pieces of the puzzle. As you play more, the more the world reveals itself to be artificial (at least in my interpretation). Closing your eyes even reveals that it is indeed a “virtual” world. There were many beautiful moments I experienced, as well as a few that disturbed me, but no one can say what impact (if any) the game will have on players.

If you are someone who is able to place themselves squarely in a game world this may be worth experiencing. However, those who want obviously laid out objectives or big, gripping stories will need to look elsewhere. Bientôt l'été is not as much a game as it is a beautiful exploration of someone else’s memories. To me, this is something of value which helps to continue expand the breadth of what video games can be.

 

Pros:

+ Attractive world which is more than it initially seems
+ Interesting take on a multiplayer experience
+ Experience which will mean different things to everyone who plays

Cons:

- Lack of overarching goal


 

Overall Score: 8 (Out of 10)
Great

Bientôt l'été is a title which newfound connoisseurs of “notgames” should play, as well as those who wish to support true creativity in gaming.




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