Thanks to Steam’s Fall Sale, I was able to stock up on a handful of Indie & older games for a steal. Seriously, I got nine games for around $30. I decided to work through them based on their file size. That meant the first game I played was Trauma, an Indie game that, from what I read on the Wiki, was the programmer’s thesis work.
Trauma is a point-&-click style game set in four different dreams the main character had while in a coma after a car accident. During each dream, the character narrates about her past and feelings as you travel through each section. She gives her thoughts on such topics as choosing to live your live based on what other people want, dealing with loss and what happens when you lose your ambition.
The game uses both point-&-click as well as a drawing aspect to move around & interact with world. Obviously you can click on certain areas to move around, but you can also create simple signs with your mouse to move around, such as drawing an upside U to do a 180 turn. A few motions are exclusively for interacting with objects. The game has a heavy photographic theme. Each movement is punctuated by a camera click, & one of the main goals is to find nine photos in each level, some of which give you clues about how to unlock the three alternate endings in each stage.
Note: There are three versions of this game available. The Steam version, an in-browser game & a downloadable pay-what-you-want version. All version are the same but the paid downloads have much faster load times.
Story: Although the story is the driving force of the game, I didn’t feel that it was explored as well as it could’ve been. The character’s narrations add a sense of cohesiveness to the game as well as provide some nice insights (not just to the game but to life in general), but it felt too detached. My main problem is that there seems to be no proper conclusion. In the end, she didn’t seem any better off than she did in the beginning. And that may have been what the developer was going for, but if that’s the case it makes for a depressing and, frankly, pointless exercise. Score: 2
Gameplay: Overall, I felt the gameplay was simple but effective. Unlike most adventure games, you don’t have to drag your mouse all over the screen looking for items you can interact with. Aside from moving around the world (which is highlighted when you move the mouse over the proper area) the only objects you can actually interact with are the photos and the objects that respond to the signs. I also liked the puzzle-ish aspect of the game. Rather than what you may expect in an adventure game, the photos you find through the dreams give you clues about what to do. Simple observation is all you really need to solve them. For example, in the first dream I found a scene with a storm cloud forming above a skyscraper but it had an odd shape in the middle of it. In the third dream I learned the sign to interact with drains and realized that the cloud resembled an upside drain. So I went back to the first dream, & sure enough the character commented on how the cloud looked like a drain, used the sign and found an alternate ending. Exploration is the key. Score: 3
Visuals & Audio: The dreams are played out in static images. Despite that, the scenes are very nice looking and detailed. One aspect I really liked was the “ghosts.” For the most part the dreams are lonely, but a few have these ghostly images of people, which resemble lens flares, playing on the photography theme. The music is decent as well, with each dream having its own soundtrack. While I can’t recall anything really spectacular, everything lends to the atmosphere without drawing you out too much. But I must say, I found the main character’s voice rather strange. Most of this is likely due to the fact that the voice actress is a foreigner speaking English (I believe she’s Polish) & this always sounds a bit off to me — no offense intended towards anyone, but you have to admit that when a non-native speaker speaks your language it sounds a bit strange. But other than that, she just sounds detached & depressed, which I guess is sort of the point. She sounds like a person who has lost all interest in the world describing these strange dreams to her doctor, which fits the game in a way. Overall, I think the best statement to the presentation of the game is summed up by Pitchfork Media when they said the game has “an unsettling feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on.” Score: 4
Replayability: Mixed. On the one hand, each dream has a total of four endings and nine photos to find to unlock the different ending to the game (which is only different from the regular ending in one small aspect). So there is some draw to play through each dream more than once just to see everything. But once you’ve seen everything, I don’t think there’s much point playing again. It only took me an hour & a half to find everything, so it’s very short. Score: 2
Overall Score: 3
Final Word: While this is certainly not something that will appeal to everyone, it wasn’t a bad game for its price. It’s worth a look if you’re into adventure games or games with a unique visual style.
Title: Trauma Console: PC Rating: NR Developer: Krystian Majewski Available at: Steam or traumagame.com Release Date: August 8, 2011