To my pleasant surprise, Thirty Flights of Loving(TFoL) was released this week on Steam. For those who don’t know the history, the game was developed in conjunction with the Kickstarter for the video game culture podcast Idle Thumbs. I assumed the game would only be available to Kickstarter donors, but it seems that the Blendo Games team has decided to release it into the wild for the affordable price of $5. As an additional bonus, it come with Gravity Bone (GT).
One of the games’ most notable things is their aesthetic. It’s not just the big-head, square bodied characters, but the music and how reminiscent it is of sixties-era spy thrillers. It’s clearly one that the studio is fond of as one of their other games- Zombie Atom Smasher– draws from the same era. Neither of the games have strong, deep mechanics; most of the gameplay revolves around opening doors and moving around.
What makes both games excellent though is their approach at story-telling. I’m often frustrated when a cutscene takes longer than ten seconds. While I think they serve as good tools for transitioning from one environment to another, anything longer completely misses the point of the medium. Both TFoL and GT employ cutscenes and voice acting in miniscule amounts and use an almost impressionistic style of storytelling. For instance, while I can’t tell you exactly the name of the protagonist, I know he’s a mercenary for hire. This is evidenced by the mission he’s given and the places he hangs out at. Breaking into offices, delivering poisoned drinks and high-speed car chases. Like an impressionistic work, you’re left to fill in the details with your own mind with the clues of your actions and the environment.
It’s hard to speak of either game too much without ruining the experience, so I won’t. I can say that delivered in its series of broken vignettes, the short games are easily some of the most compelling, least patronizing deliveries of narrative in video games and are worth your time.