I Am Dead, a new indie from Hollow Ponds and Richard Hogg (best known for Hohokum), is hard to pin down at first. The closest you can get is to imagine throwing an MRI scanner and a slice of Pixar's warm whimsy into a blender and then leaving it on high for five minutes. Essentially it's a game about exploring everything around you – from people's memories to the insides of gobstoppers with a type of ghostly X-ray vision. We had the opportunity to see it in action to understand a little more about the mechanics behind the upcoming game's mellow vibes.
Something's fishy in Shelmerston
In I am Dead, you play as Morris Lupton; resident of the island of Shelmerston, museum creator, and now, ghost. Helped by the spirit of your dog, Sparky, you must learn all the secrets of Shelmerston by diving into people's brains. By doing this, you'll be able playback their memories and then seek out items – or mementos – that hold specific sentimental value. Sifting through memories is like tuning an old-fashioned radio, using LT and RT until the images line up.
Once you've pinpointed the item of interest, finding it can be as simple as locating a specific plant in a room full of greenery, or using your ghost vision to investigate the innards of a cupboard, or a pie, or a bag. The animation for that part is ostentatiously delightful, letting you see objects in slices – much like an MRI machine would do. With it, the bright, rainbow centers of gobstoppers pop off the screen, the heels of shoes reveal secret compartments, and it even makes the soggy innards of a cucumber something you'll want to investigate for far too long.
I watched the developers from Hollow Ponds gently probe the memories of a divorcee yoga fan to find a golf tee, and then a widow called Sally Mapes. Her tales of her now-dead husband (and sousaphone player) Ogden Becketts made me think of Pixar's Up, and hinted at the emotional heart of the game. The voice acting behind the memories you access is warm and well delivered – all soothing British regional accents – and you should come into this expecting to find plenty of feels to go along with all of the visual fiddling.
There's a dark undercurrent to the world of I Am Dead, then, although those darker emotions look like they're going to be balanced with a cheeky, absurd sense of humor. The tone works well with the visual style of the world, enough to ensure that you'll be eager to investigate every corner of every area of the game. The setting of I Am Dead looks like a brightly colored toy town at first glance, but it turns out it's packed with secrets. Secrets, and a race of fish people who are obsessed with toast. Using your ghostly vision on a boat reveals a whiskey still hidden inside, there's a pub called The Camel, and an artist with an apple for a head who goes by the name of Vernon Russett.
And if curiosity isn't enough to keep you looking into every crevice of the world, there are secrets called Grenkins too. These might be hidden as a map and compass, or in the back of the aforementioned shoes, or perhaps as the cupcakes that can be found in a secret compartment of a gym bag. The developers hinted that something happens when you find enough of these strange items, but like played coy about what it was. Frankly, I didn't care. I don't need an excuse to want to investigate the weird world of Shelmerston, carb-obsessed fish people and all.
I Am Dead will be released later this year on Nintendo Switch and PC.