I am not a hardcore gamer. I don’t play FPS games for fear of throwing up my soul, I’m no good at RTS games (I do <3 me some StarCraft though), and I have approximately 5 games for my PS2. I much prefer to watch someone else play long-form games unless it’s some sort of point-and-click puzzle/adventure or Killer7. It’s that Kon Smith. He’s so cool.
On the other hand, I spend a portion of nearly every day playing casual games. I love these things. They are great diversions, and occasionally I run across one that turns out to be much more than I had expected. The other day I was poking around Kongregate when I discovered a new game called ImmorTall. I’ve played Hunted Forever and Alter, other games by Pixelante and I was already in it just to see some more of this developer’s artistic style. I clicked, the music started, I was ready to find out what that extra “l” in the title is for.
True to Pixelante’s style, the art is gorgeous. It’s got a retro feel, not too detailed but looking instead like something from a retro-futuristic war poster. The coloring is mostly primary with black and white. I loved the sounds: guitar punctuates every game happening as well as providing a moody musical backdrop to the action.
You begin the game as a little inchwormy alien who has emerged from a crashed ship. Over the course of the next few minutes you meet people, get snacks, grow tall, and then become a
human alien shield. There isn’t a lot to figure out and when you need to do something instructions appear on the screen to guide you. This could be said to be a linear game, in that there is a single ending which really cannot be prevented, only staved off. I won’t pull any punches here: I played this game several times to see how much I could influence the ending and I cried my eyes out every single time.
My impression of ImmorTall is that it’s a very well done tiny story about any number of things including our fear of the unknown, the ways humans are willing to harm one another “for their own good”, and -depending on the circumstances at the ending- sacrifice.
It’s brilliant in that there’s just enough there to nudge you toward some understanding of what the game means, though it might be very different from the interpretations of other players. It made me think, and according to Pixelante’s Twitter feed there are a lot of varying opinions as to its meaning. That is, I think, as it should be. Art is interpreted by the one who experiences it.
I recommend this game for anyone who’s got about 5 minutes and a little thought power to spare. From beginning to end it’s a tiny masterpiece and the newest of my favorites. It’s games like this that show me the strength of play as a vehicle for storytelling and inspire me to want to make my own.