Stunning and inventive, Lineweight takes players on a journey through their own innermost being. With its vibrant text and blissful background music, the “living book” narrative adventure from acclaimed developer Cipher Prime wastes no time in diving into the story from the get-go, making sure that you’re hooked right from the very beginning. There’s really only one word to describe it: beautiful.
Essentially, you play through five chapters that each focuses on a very specific human emotion as the overarching theme. Designed to evoke deep stirrings within you with every word, the game takes you on a deep dive through true-to-life stories via swiping up to reveal what happens next. You can always drag the screen back down to go back to the previous “event”, but it basically plays out like an endless scroll that you can easily breeze through in minutes. Of course, with the visually appealing abstract imagery and perfect typography, you really wouldn’t want to.
Now, I’m well aware that this game has already bagged a bunch of awards even before its official release, and it really is something entirely different from anything I’ve ever played before. To call it a game is a bit misleading, to be honest, as it’s more of an interactive experience or moveable art rather than an actual game.
The thing is, despite its oozing personality, flair, and pizzazz, the flashy text adventure just doesn’t seem to hit all the right notes.
Yes, the text is amazing and yes, the stories are very real and raw and poetic. The posh music also instantly makes you want to hang out, relax, and chill all of your worries away. But ultimately, each chapter is a short story that’s essentially an internal monologue from a protagonist that’s speaking in the first-person point of view. It’s that part in a novel where the main character goes through his or her own internal struggle, or a quiet soliloquy right after some big significant event. As a writer myself, I live for those moments in stories - but for this one, it just didn’t work for me.
For one thing, it’s probably a little bit jarring that all of this internal narration is being played out through a game. Granted that I already knew what to expect from this game - that it’s not exactly a game but a narrative app, in a sense - there was still a disconnect as I sat down and started “playing”.
The problem, in my opinion, is that the whole point of the experience is to make the player relate to the emotion being highlighted in each chapter, to make you feel like you’re going through the same thing. Projecting that emotion onto the player is the reason why the text is so beautiful, the sounds so timely, and the colours so psychologically on-point. But the problem is that despite all that, I was still very much aware that I was reading something happening to someone else, and that I’m just an observer along for the ride.
By making the player take control of the scrolling and the dots that you have to connect to move the story along, the game wants you to be involved and to feel like you’re the protagonist, almost like in a role-playing game. But the gap between me controlling the story and the text that I’m reading is the reason why the point just isn’t coming across.
It probably would have made much more sense if the whole narrative was told in a second-person point of view, and I think this is the biggest issue. By using “you” instead of “I”, the whole evoking-emotions-in-you thing will make much more sense, and the player can successfully put themselves into the narrator’s shoes more effectively.
I wanted to love this game - I really, really did. I’ve always said in my reviews that I’m a huge narrative player, that the first thing I look for (and my main gauge for whether or not a game is any good) is the story. With Lineweight being an interactive story, me falling in love with it should have been automatic. But aside from the really cool typography (the graphic artists for this one really outdid themselves) and the relaxing background music, there really wasn’t much else for me to love.
You can finish the game in 30 minutes to an hour, but I did find myself going back a few times to certain screens in certain chapters, if only because all of the colours and texts were such eye candy. Other than that, I didn’t really feel like I needed to go back after I already went through all five chapters, which is a huge shame.