“…the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Jung
The Search is a surreal walking simulator and puzzle game set in a mysterious world where art comes to life to create doorways to new places. Players must overcome obstacles to their creativity by searching for clues in an unfamiliar world, guided only by notes left by an ominous stranger.
Developer: Jason Godbey
Released: 14th April 2017
The Search has a relaxing, slow pace to its gameplay with no rushing or urgency required. The player must explore a series of environments and must solve hidden-object puzzles in order to paint a canvas and create a door and progress. A specific photo is required as this will then be burnt to make a pigmented ash, a brush, roll of canvas and paint pot with liquid must also be found. The other way of getting around in the game is finding tickets to use at ticket machines that instantly transport the player. That being said, progression through The Search is mostly linear.
As the player explores they will also discover a series of notes left by a mysterious stranger known only as ‘The Invisible’. These notes have ‘meaningful phrases and ideas written on them and the protagonist will share her thoughts after reading their contents, often citing people such as psychiatrist CarlJung.
The game uses mouse-only, point and click controls for the most part, however, a change in the controls is used to signify a change in the protagonist’s state of mind. This makes a tangibly poignant moment and really helps connect the player to the experience.
The overarching narrative and themes centre on the protagonist being fully true to themself, being creative because that’s who they are and being able and free to produce a true piece of art. Essentially the game explores the barrier to creativity that all artists experience. This is delivered through the gameplay, notes and narration. Some of the messages from The Invisible and the protagonist’s dialogue can land as quite thought-provoking whilst other sections come across as superficially deep and even a touch pretentious. It is a bit of a mixed bag but the overall message is well-meaning and encouraging.
The game environments include house interiors, village streets, a cliffside and abstract voids to name a few, demonstrating a large amount of variety for such a short game. These scenes are depicted in a realistic 3D art style that cleverly mixes vibrant and muted colour palettes to create different atmospheres.
The Search’s soundtrack is a highlight of the game with relaxing guitar, gentle harp and haunting strings, the overall effect is mesmerising and very emotive. Unfortunately, the music is cut off abruptly went the protagonist speaks which is very jarring and breaks the sense of immersion quite dramatically.
The Search will take around 1-2 hours to play and is certainly an interesting and relaxing little experience. There are some questionable lines of dialogue but the overall experience is fun, engaging and thought-provoking. This won’t be a title that everyone will enjoy but I’d absolutely recommend it to fans of walking simulators and narrative-focused puzzle games.
If you like this and want to read about more walking simulators, take a look at:
Paradise Lost – An Emotional Alternate History Walking Simulator – Martha is Dead – Disturbing New Psychological Horror – Ghost on the Shore: Brand New Emotional Exploration Game