Thirty Flights of Loving
“IT COSTS HOW MUCH? FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES?”
No, that’s not the sound of a man talking going rates with a prostitute. Rather it’s the reaction of incredulous gamers the world over when they find out the asking price for Blendo Game’s Thirty Flights of Loving. Is it worth that couple quid/bucks? How about this? You give me fifteen minutes, and I’ll tell you whether or not you should have been playing Thirty Flights of Loving.
First order of business: TFoL is the sequel to the very much free and short Gravity Bone, so go play that right now, I can wait...
Done? Good. You now know whether or not a sequel to Gravity Bone is worth your money. For the rest of you bad seeds in the back of the class, sit up and pay attention, the lecture starts here:
FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD - and I don’t mean that in a “Dear Esther” way, where you’ll be simply holding “W” and moving the mouse.
TFoL is constantly spiraling forward, leaping in time, and occasionally stumbling. In order to maintain this momentum, TFoL sacrifices a lot of time that could be spent detailing the story. Instead, TFoL compresses it all down to a tiny chunk of game, giving you only rapid fire snapshots into the world that it presents. The details that would have been stretched through a larger game all get packed into the space of a quarter hour: throwaway gags, hideaways, posters referencing other Blendo games, and other details occupy the world of TFoL.
Even though it’s free it’s still included in the package
Some of the charm of the world gets lost in the scuffle, however. The game starts off a la Gravity Bone, easing you quickly into a world of a 1960’s spy movie style criminal underworld that Gravity Bone and TFoL take place in. While TFoL gives you an opportunity to explore and make connections about the characters and the world around you, interaction is very basic. You can run, jump, and crouch, most of which are unnecessary, and when the game calls for it, you can interact with certain objects, triggering switches, picking up items, or examining something in a bit more detail. While Gravity Bone had you adding a small number of items to your inventory before using them in adventure game style, TFoL’s interactions are there simply to give the world a sense of physicality than for actual purposes of gameplay. Then without warning, TFoL hits you with a face punch of a jump cut, throwing you miles away in location and plot.
The entire time you’ll be accompanied by the pulpy sly spy soundtrack. The sound design works to keep pushing you forward and to help your imagination fill in the missing details. Objects in the world give off ambient sounds that you’ll notice as you approach them and the few interactions you have are accompanied by a simplistic and appropriate sound to give the objects some weight. The music changes to match the emotional state and timeframe of the scene with perfect timing. While TFoL’s charmingly simple block headed style does a lot to subtly and artistically draw your attention away from it’s Quake II graphics tech, the primitive technology powering the game means that there will be technical flaws for those really looking for them. The textures might not be as sharp as they could be, and the rendering not as crisp as graphics fanatics would like. Yet even through all the purposefully low polygon models, you can see the attention the devs spent on the artwork. The world is laid out to subtly draw your attention to certain areas, Valve style, and there is a strong use of colors, contrasts, and silhouettes to quickly and viscerally communicate actions and emotions. Like the events of the game, the art is painted in broad strokes that suggest forms and objects, rather than rendering them in an outright concrete manner.
That’s how you’ll feel after the first playthrough
Even with all the love and attention put into it, TFoL still feels rough around the edges. Janky animations, the way characters at time seem to pop back and forth between places and the odd bug that forces a crash to the desktop, it all takes you out of the spell. Combined with the lo-fi aesthetic and its brief length, these issues can make TFoL feel cheap at moments. Approached without the right mindset and expectations, TFoL might even feel like a waste of time and money. As noted before, most of the interactions in the game are simply to give the world a better sense of place and emotion; none of your decisions have an effect on the ultimate outcome of the story. You’re simply along for the ride.
There’s a bit of extra here for those looking to get a bit more out of it. Gravity Bone is included in the package as well, if you want to play it again and get a refresher course on the world and style of the two games. There is also an additional developers commentary, which lays out Valve style comment bubbles that bring up various details surrounding the development of the game, and point out small details you may have missed the first time through. It gives some insight into the care put into the game, and helps appreciate the experience a bit more.
You’ll notice with all this talk about pacing, timing, charm and momentum I’ve told you little to nothing about what actually occurs in Thirty Flights of Loving. That’s because I’d spoil it. The game is so densely packed and quickly occurring that telling you a single moment, giving away a single gag could ruin a moment that you yourself could have the pleasure of experiencing. Make no mistake however, Thirty Flights of Loving sure does pour on the love, but it isn’t the sugary sweet romantic comedy variety. No, no, no. This is a moment of rough and tumble blazing foreplay as equally likely to end in a fist fight as it would in a night of cuddling. Make sure you’re into that before you commit.
- Charming: Artistically crafted world and characters.
- Emotional: Packs more emotion into a few minutes than other games pack in hours.
- Super sly pulp spy soundtrack: Tastes a bit like Team Fortress 2’s, actually.
- Packed with details and gags: You’ll miss a lot of them on the first run, though.
- Ambiguous: Blendo leaves a lot to your imagination in terms of plot, characters, and world. You can fill it in, but you’ll never really know everything.
- Few interactive objects: There’s not much to interact with, but it does make the things you can interact with feel more important.
- Snapshot style delivery: Keeps the pace snappy, but can get jarring.
- Short: Even with Gravity Bone and developer commentary included, you’re not looking at a lot of game time for your money.
- Bugs: Some players have experienced a couple bugs, and expect a crash to the desktop.
Posted 10-09-2012, 10:12
I think this is a good example of "videogames" as a medium needing to take on a new title. Titles like this are really pushing what the medium can do in terms of storytelling methods. I agree that as a "game" it is incredibly lacking. There isn't the same amount of goals or interaction that you would expect from a videogame.
I like to think of it as an experimental game, the videogame analog to a film somewhere between "Bullet Ballet" and "Mothlight". I would even go so far as to say it's less a "videogame" and more an interactive short story. This is one of the reasons why I think the medium needs to grow out of it's current label in order to mature, the same way "comics" have become "graphic novels". Calling them videogames sets a very narrow expectation of what they should be, and I think games such as Proteus, and Papo and Yo, and of course TFoL, are beginning to push up against those expectations.
Posted 01-09-2012, 12:06
You know, I still can't get over the name of this one...wish my editorial comment had been left in ~_~
Posted 31-08-2012, 13:01
Gravity Bone was way better, I don't get the hype around Thirty Flights of Loving either myself. I will be making an Appeal for this game as well asap :)
Posted 31-08-2012, 12:29
I played it 3 times and eventually started to understand how it kinda came together. Soundtrack is nice, I just don't see why everyone is praising it so much. Everything is at such a fast pace most of the time, its hard to understand whats going on in your first or second play through. I don't see how it could really be considered a game. You barely interact with the world and pretty much walk in a straight line, like Dear Esther(which i enjoyed more)
I think its alright nothing special.