“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.” – Norman Maclean
Atuel is an award-winning interactive documentary about the Atuel River Valley in Argentina. Players are taken on an informative journey through a surreal interpretation of the river’s fascinating landscape.
Released: 14th September 2023
Price: Name your own price
Available on: itch.io
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Gameplay and Narrative
Using keyboard-only input, Atuel’s gameplay is quite minimal. It consists almost entirely of simply moving through the beautiful environment, though there are a couple of opportunities to affect the landscape itself. Players take on the role of a number of creatures and elements from the river, from a cloud to a fish and even the river itself. Whilst this level of interaction will likely not appeal to all players it works perfectly with the relaxing and informative experience Atuel is offering.
At the heart of this game is the commentary that plays sporadically as players progress through the linear exploration. It is made up of real-life interviews with historians, biologists, geologists and more and covers a range of topics from the Atuel’s physical properties to the wildlife that inhabits it and also the culture and beliefs that surround it. The captivating narration plays in Spanish with English subtitles available. It was nice to hear the commentary in the speaker’s native language but sometimes it was a tad tricky to focus on what was being said whilst also navigating the environment.
Atuel sees players explore landscapes inspired by the topography and wildlife of the Atuel River Valley in Argentina. This surreal interpretation is made up of low poly models and a vibrant yet often moody colour palette that culminates into something that can be quite trippy in places. The overall visual effect is unique and mesmerising and provides a wonderful backdrop for the game’s commentary.
The game’s audio is fairly minimal with some ambient sound effects such as the flowing river and fire burning which help create a sense of the environment. Evocative drones and other sounds constitute a kind of tuneless musical element that helps build the atmosphere and create suspense. Whilst this was a welcome addition to the game, there was a sense of something lacking and perhaps a more intense and melodic soundtrack may have been more appropriate.
Atuel is an intriguing and original experience that is definitely more of an interactive documentary than a game in the traditional sense. It has a lot to offer with its interesting and surreal visuals accompanied by the educational interview-based commentary, both of which are sure to keep players moving forward. Overall, it does a great job of what it sets out to achieve and I happily recommend it to anyone looking for a casual but informative experience.
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