Every (kind of) week, Itching For More materialises, like one of Trump’s policies — entertaining but also problematic and very worrying. This week, is small, post apocalyptic walking simulator: Like Roots In The Soil
Like Roots In The Soil’s main mechanic is a brilliant, simple idea, executed effortlessly. In Like Roots In The Soil (by Space Backyard), you watch two people walk the same path through a city at different times of its life — one, older man walks through the rubble of a city, whilst a younger man wanders a built up, clean city.
Your view of these two men is a rotatable cylinder, restricting you to only ever seeing either part of both worlds, or only one of them. There’s probably a far better way to explain the concept, but the easiest way to understand is to simply play it. As the two men explore their city, small snippets of text appear on the screen, giving you some insight into their goings on.
The dilapidated city boasts a gorgeously dusty palette of colours, giving a stark contrast to the clean, bright alternate city of the younger man. On top of this, the beautiful ambient score distorts a little in the broken city, becoming more rough. The small differences and parallels between each city is what makes Like Roots in the Soil interesting to play, and what holds the players attention for its tiny five minutes of play time.
The story of Like Roots In The Soil, like its main mechanic, is simple, but well executed. As you’d expect, Like Roots dwells on themes of past and present, focusing on the interconnection and inseparable nature of the two. As you walk through the city, an initial assumption is that the broken city is the future of the shiny, unbroken city. However, the ending takes this idea and turns it on its head. Throughout the game, the old man carried a plant in a can on his back, placing it down at the end of the game. In the same spot, the younger man stares at a tree, can protruding from its bark.
Through this simple observation, we can conclude that in fact the broken city is the new city’s past, not future, the citizens rebuilding it. In this knowledge, the story takes on new meaning, now being attributed to the younger man, the older man an ancestor of him. The short story contemplates upon the city, calling it a “cold ocean made of steel”.
The son’s distaste for his city is obvious in his words, as he describes it as “absorbed in the oblivion of the present”. Yet whilst he wants to escape the city, he is held up by his father’s works. The moral drawn from this short piece is one of fixing rather than running. One of changing one’s perceptions to remember the past, rather than blindly focusing on the future.
This can easily be applied to the present day — in a society ever eager to not learn from its previous mistakes, it is easy to become absorbed in the present, springboarding from it to a shiny future, forgetting the roots that once so firmly held you down. Like Roots In The Soil begins by talking about inertia — the state of rest, or uniform motion, only changed by external force.
“ — All objects continue their existing state of rest or uniform motion, unless that state is changed by an external force. —
— First the calm, and then a sudden force that disturbs it, forever. — ”
Within the game, this external force manifests itself in three objects — the disaster that caused the broken city, the plant, which perhaps sparked the rebuild of the city, and the old man — the boy’s past, influencing his future, preventing him from obsessing with the present.
Like roots in the soil is a free download, available here.