Just Browsing: Allegory

Platforms: All

Prequels. What do they really mean? How are we supposed to approach them? Are they a meant to breath life into their original, add meaning, or are they simply a telling of a new story from a previous point in time. Most likely it is all down to the way they are created, but it is certainly true that approaching prequels first, changes one’s perspective on the following sequel. An example. Someone recently suggested to me that there is a way to watch the two Star Wars trilogies in an order that improves the story beyond George Lucas’ original intention . I’ve not had the time or inclination to try this out, but the point is still valid.

Which brings me in an obscure way to today’s Just Browsing. One of my favourite browser games recently received a prequel, which changes the perspective on the original. It is beautiful and heartfelt, a sentimental message wrapped up the allegory of puzzle platforming. But, I’m stuck now. Which way should someone approach these two games to have the most enjoyable and affecting experience? Perhaps it does not matter. Just find a dark room and sit down to play both of Eli Piilonen’s games... now.

The Company of Myself by 2D array

The original game is the story of a lonely man pushed over the edge into a psychotic breakdown, which is told all through the beautiful metaphor of a puzzle platformer. The ‘hero’ of the game named Jack has the ability to split himself and replay his previous lives to aid his progression to the level’s exit. This creates an interesting puzzle mechanic that can stretch that brain matter further than the cutesy simplistic graphics suggest.
It is not however the game mechanics (which we have seen before in games such as Chronotron) that lifts this game into the upper echelons of inclusion into the Just Browsing hall of fame, it is the sensitive and emotionally overwhelming feelings that are portrayed throughout, both in written context and the way it bonds with the gaming style. Somehow this drags a simple platformer out of gaming mundanity and into a wonderful work of art.

Fixation by 2D array

Released just this week, the prequel to The Company of Myself, Fixation continues this emotionally powerful puzzle platforming mechanic but shifts the focus onto a new subject, that of addiction. Telling the story of Kathryn, who is also wrapped up the original, and her life of overcoming her smoking addiction through changing her perspective on the world. Rather than the self replicating mechanic seen in The Company of Myself, here the gameplay is about manipulating the smoke your character creates in order to progress.
While the story is perhaps more whimsical and less heavy hitting than the original (which perhaps is no bad thing), the gameplay is solid, and the experience more complete. Fixation feels more like a fully rounded game rather than a short poetic allegory, and helps fill in the many blanks that the original left behind. The way the gameplay still styles itself by telling an emotional story through metaphor continues to bring a warmth to the proceedings and the result is a thoroughly brilliant experience.

But which order to play them? I’ll let you decide.

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