3 Oct 2011

REVIEW: Trauma

Trauma did seem to come and go without a great deal being said about it, at least as far as I was aware, so having recently acquired it through the excellent Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle, I felt it appropriate to brew a large pot of coffee and give it a whirl this evening. A nice, slow whirl.

This is a game I can relax into. I mean, the undertones are pretty dark - you certainly won't be giggling you're way through it - but there's a pleasant floating quality to the gameplay and a sense that whatever pace you happen to take it at is just fine and dandy. So as I passed through it - and I do mean 'passed through' - I almost felt as if I weren't playing the game, but that the game was playing me, leading me onwards with a succession of gentle prods to uncover its secrets.

This casual, wandering aspect is simultaneously a strength and a weakness. The game is instantly engaging because of its sense of mystery and the simple point and click method of play, but it also lacks the depth of character required to keep it from being anything other than a pleasant time-killing Flash game. Which is odd because, as you progress, you appear to be exploring the dreams of a young woman who is recovering from quite severe physical and psychological difficulties.

Once again, it's not a laugh a minute.

Advancement in the story is achieved by navigating through polaroid snapshots of several strange and hallucinatory worlds. You'll piece together clues to the girl's past whilst solving simple puzzles and finding ways to end the dreams, but it never really becomes emotionally engaging. I was aware of the struggle of the protagonist in the vaguest of ways but, instead of sucking me in and taking me deeper into her personal tragedy, it maintained a level of surrealism that always held me at a distance.

I don't dislike the game. I think it's an attractive and unusual treasure hunt, but I couldn't honestly say anything kinder than that and it did leave me feeling slightly empty once I'd uncovered all of its secrets.

Have a go, you might like it, but don't expect it to pose any questions greater than, say, "Where the hell is that final item?"

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