In the past few months, I feel like I’ve barely had chance to breathe. I’ve had a really (really) lovely, but admittedly hectic summer, coupled with a return to University life, the workload and change of pace has taken a while to adjust to. What I’m trying to say, is that I haven’t had much chance to play anything, apart from the occasional Itching for More piece, squeezed into the end of a day.
29, is a point and click adventure game, which follows two protagonists — Ao and Bo. It’s beautiful, thick with atmosphere and delicately crafted scenes and is semi-autobiographical. This small section of 29 felt like an immaculately made puppet show. Cardboard cutouts and woolen puppets inhabit a Stanley Donwood-esque wood. Whilst Humble Grove’s previous vignette pulled out from Earth to the stars, in order to look down on themselves, 29 focuses inwards, using a small adventure game to explore some of the autobiological aspects of the game.
29’s transition into the game (in the game) is so, so, soooo slick. As the characters chatter amongst themselves, walls fall away, room sliding off screen as the scene on the TV appears around the characters. It’s a breathtaking transition to behold, a transition that 29 continues to employ throughout the rest of this vignette, giving everything the feel of a pop up book — hand crafted, intimate, and physical.
As the character within the game progresses, they reach various points where the friends playing the game offer up different options, different ways to explore. As with any adventure game with multiple decisions, a lot of them are tantalisingly hard, if simply for the itch for wanting to explore everything fully. As you progress, you meet more characters, through choosing different decisions, stemming from different people in the room.
Everything in 29 glides. Whether it’s the scenery serenely gliding off of the screen, the way the text game interacts with the characters playing it, or the transitions of your choices to actions, glide seems to be the keyword. That sounds stranger, typing it out, but Humble Grove have succeeded in creating a style within 29 that glides around the screen etherally, which when combined with its beautiful ambient soundtrack makes gives every moment an elegance often lost in other, more brash games.
As you progress within the game, in the game, you come across scenes that remind Ao and Bo of places from their lives. I’m enjoying the confusing layer of meta raised here — as Bo and Ao are based on Tom Davison and Hana Lee, there are multiple layers of the purpose of 29 to explore. The characters are confused at the familiarity of the game they’re playing, creating both a natural and slightly magical relation to the in-game game.
We may relate to characters and stories when experiencing them — games are brought to life through a player’s head and their willingness to become absorbed within the game, so we tend to relate places and characters in games to places and people we already know. However, within 29, the developers themselves have placed these scenes within the game, allowing the narrative of slight confusion within their game to coalesce. This gives the game a magical element, purposefully showing characters scenes they are familiar with — scenes that may also be familiar to the devs themselves.
However, there is a third layer on top of this — in relating places ourselves, we too relate to the experience of déjà vu — I’ve had experiences where places and people in media are ridiculously similar to places I know in real life. We can relate to the feeling the characters are experiencing, whilst also experiencing a slight sense of disconnect. It almost feels like flicking through someone’s dogeared diary, each turn of the page more interesting, and more forbidden than the last.
Everytime I see more of 29, whether it be a snippet of writing, a wip gif, a screenshot, or another chunk of gameplay, it seems to have grown into something bigger, more mature, and more exciting. 29 is shaping up to be a beautifully crafted first chapter.