Art games, eh? You either love them, hate them, or pretend to understand them so you look super cool on gaming forums.
However you feel about the 'are games art?' argument, there's no denying that Jason Rohrer is one of the most well-known developers driving the medium forward.
His games have received a serious amount of praise from gamers who perceive meaning in his work, and he's received serious ridicule from people who wouldn't exactly describe his games as 'moving'.Indie group
Alt-Play: Jason Rohrer Anthology compiles three of Rohrer's most popular works, each with its own unique flavour and message. Technically all three are available to download for the PC for free, and having them 'on the go' doesn't exactly add much, but it's still quite nice to give them a playthrough from a different perspective.
The three games in question are Passage, Gravitation, and Between. Most likely you've already heard of Passage, a short game about life. Players take control of an unnamed man and start walking through abstract fields and towns.
As he walks, he meets a girl, and bumping into her causes her to join the walk. Over time there are treasures to find and obstacles to walk around.
Eventually the couple grows old and dies. Your score is shown, and the game ends.Art imitating life
You may well be thinking at this stage, 'So... you walk for a while, and then the game ends?'. If you take it at face value, it's not exactly a stunner.
However, each of Rohrer's games has an underlying concept. In the case of Passage, he's talking about the fragility of life, and how the decisions we make can have a huge impact.
For example, allowing the girl to follow you will bless your man with a partner, yet it will also stop him from grabbing certain treasures, as the couple together cannot fit through certain gaps.
Hence your decision is to either have a relationship or go after the money. However, at the end of the game your score is technically meaningless. The money was nothing, and if you didn't meet the girl you die alone.Gravitas
The other two games follow suit. Gravitation sees you playing with your daughter while simultaneously trying to earn a living. The metaphors will either go straight over your head or really speak to you.
Between is slightly different, in that it's a two-player game. Once a copy of the game has been sent to another DS or DSi wirelessly, both players are then meant to sit in separate rooms and not talk to each other.
It's then a case of both figuring out what you're meant to be doing. Are your worlds intertwining? Are you interacting with each other at all?
We're not going to spoil anything, but it's fair to say that many players will not understand what's going on at all. Even we had a fair amount of trouble with it.No explanations required
While these DSi versions of Rohrer's games are replicated perfectly, there are some odd additions.
He's provided statements for each game that explain what he was trying to convey, and these are interesting reads.
What isn't so useful, however, is the supplied help file, which gives each game an 'objective'. The whole point of these experiences is that you work out the goals for yourself, so for the game to explain it seems to miss the point.
By now, you have most likely decided whether or not the Jason Rohrer Anthology is for you. If you're sitting on the fence, we'd suggest you give it a shot. At just 200 DSi points, there are far worse games to spend your points on.