There's an ongoing debate about whether or not games are art, but Linger In Shadows is a clear case of the art being a game. Based upon the concept of the demoscene and filled with bizarre, dream-like imagery, Linger In isn't a game. It's not a tech demo. It's not a 3D movie, a tech demo, or a puzzle. It's something in between all three, which our demoer called "real-time interactive art." It's also captivating.
Linger In Shadows unfolds like this: when you begin "playing," you watch it, just like a cutscene. It's rendered in real time. For instance, the bit we saw began with a close-up of a nest of stone-looking tentacles surrounding a glop of glowing goop. We then see flashes of a basset hound-looking dog, a fuzzy cat, a panda bear sitting at the entrance to a tunnel that appears to be mounted in a skyscraper, a strange Grecian statue on a sky-high pedestal in the middle of a city, and a couple pulsing, floating collections of cubes and spheres.
What's that? Yeah, we know. It doesn't exactly make the traditional definition of "sense." But neither does your dream with Jessica Alba and the turtle, does it? It's still interesting.
So anyhow, we're watching all this imagery unfold, and then the demoer does something we've never done in a cutscene before. He presses X and the action freezes. Depending upon where you are in the presentation, you can now do things to the environment. You can press triangle to move the camera wherever you like, maybe tilt the controller or twiddle the analog sticks to move things around, or use the shoulder buttons to move forward or backward along the timeline. Or, you can just admire the visuals - much of this stuff, like the realtime goop, or the gorgeous animals with fur shading, and the photoshop-style paint filters that make the whole thing look like a living, moving painting, could be a tech demo. It's stunning.
Why would you do this? Ah, that's the key to it all. Basically, at some point, this "movie" is going to come to an end. And in order to unlock the next bit of "film," you need to wander around its 3D landscape and locate specific triggers, called "greets." Think of them as specific details you have to prove to the game you've seen before it will let you progress.
Here's a very visual example. The stony tentacles belong to a creature - think of those squid-like hunter-killer things from The Matrix, except made of stone and with a tiki mask face and glowing yellow eyes. It's flying around the city and it passes a flower on a floating chunk of earth. If you just watch it, you'll soon dead-end. But if you pause, then use the controller to rotate the flower's platform, you'll soon reveal a "greet" in the form of a sign at the flower's base. Once you've seen that, it'll show up on your "greet board" (viewable by pressing square) and you'll unlock the next bit of "film."
Will it be worth it? Depends upon how much you love bizarre stuff. In the sequence we watched, the hound began swimming - through the sky, mind you - toward the statue. As the cat watched impassively, a swirling black cloud chased down the hound, and when it reached him, the hound was turned to stone. The Matrix squid-thing then climbed out of the tunnel the Panda was sitting beside, raced to the stone hound, still levitating, and shattered it, collecting the pieces. The black cloud then formed the shape of a face and apparently told the cloud to rip the top off the statue's temple. It does, but the process shatters the glass of the player's TV screen and the chapter ends.
Don't you want to know what happens next? Or at least what on Earth happened already? Linger In Shadows comes out this summer, and nothing and no one is gonna keep us from finding out.
May 16, 2008
Update: Linger in Shadows has a spiritual successor! Read our Datura review for more on the latest title from Plastic.