It’s the best time of the year for this cozy slow play

Screenshot: Mojiken

I’m sure indie studio Mojikensupernatural slice of life Space for the unrelated it’s the perfect game to play when it’s raining outside. The action takes place in 1990s pixelated Indonesia, where everything is tinted with an evocative greenish hue of sea foam, surrounded by a low hot sun and pink clouds. This gives you an attractive, dry place to escape to. It’s a sweet, undemanding adventure game with a multi-level story to get lost in; it’s a slice of grapefruit to enjoy while more established studios start the year with cool clown Problems and performance issues.

But as dreamy as Space for the unrelated can get – its main story follows a teenager Atma and his inscrutable girlfriend Raya, who can manipulate reality at the cost of her health – its release was also tied to real life.

In the summer of 2022, Mojiken and coffee talk developers Toge Productions accused publisher of PQube using his “position and heritage as developers from Indonesia to obtain a diversity fund”, which was withheld from the developers. In response, the developers decided to delay the release of the game indefinitely to “make sure it gets published”. […] in a way that is consistent with our values ​​and the values ​​of our community,” they said in a statement. public relations statement. After all, the game was put on hold for another five months, and the end result does indeed look relentlessly Indonesian.

And this is my favorite part. The action takes place in a small warm town, on the surface of which little happens, except for the main characters’ school life, low-traffic Internet cafes and bitter melon clusters growing on short white fences. While collectible lids are from apparently popular Indonesian drinks like Reno Soda (“How can something locally made be so expensive?” Atma asks) flicker on the ground, and there are several examples of uncharacteristically didactic anti-smoking dialogue, ostensibly to address ongoing Indonesian smoking. tobacco addiction (“Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and can make pregnancy difficult,” the general store owner dutifully tells us and Atma), the game never tries to explain its culture to you. It is not necessary. He embodies it.

Atma stands under a shady tree.

Screenshot: Mojiken

As Atma, you’ll find useful junk, which the shop owner complains people are hoarding, in an abandoned swamp patch to help you complete tasks like baking a Black Forest Cake for Paradise. In addition to completing tasks that require little more than moving around a compact map, collecting things and carrying them to another location, gameplay consists of beating up school bullies with arcade arrows and quick events, as well as performing “space dives”. mystical method of immersion “in the hearts of people and [ridding] their inner turmoil. A small yellow flower appears above the heads of the characters when you can perform this function. When you do this, their hearts can be anything – maybe a galactic bedroom, balancing scales, or a cage – but they are always inhabited by one flowering tree that has buds that open when you essentially heal their inner child. to get what you want. to want.

I don’t love it as much as I love the game’s beautiful pixels and fairy tale magic (there is a talking cat, a bully who turns into a “werewolf dog”, Raya cutely manifests money in Atma’s pocket when she wants to watch a movie, etc. .). I got a little over half of the game and was never completely sure of her emotions or the message she was trying to convey with them, although the game Description in steam calls it “a story about overcoming anxiety, depression.”

For example, at one point Atma is tormented by diving into the heart of a confectioner to convince her to stay in a job she hates. Your talking cat buddy convinces you it’s the right thing to do and you as a player have no other choice – it’s the only way to get the Black Forest Gate for Paradise and complete your task.

Atma orders a cake.

Screenshot: Mojiken

But it didn’t strike me as a very empathetic assignment, and the game progresses as slowly as syrup pours, so I couldn’t see how it fit into a plot that otherwise seemed to emphasize supportive friendship. Ironically, after you do this, the pastry chef will enthusiastically thank you for taking her back to the kitchen.

All in all, Space for the unrelatedThe plot could benefit from more clarity. When Atma falls asleep, he has visions that help him understand the wild powers of Paradise. But they are brief, and Raya usually refutes or dismisses them immediately after waking up. So while continuing to devote time to the game, I never felt rewarded by knowing exactly where the story was heading.

However, the ten hour game beats previous Mojiken releases by about eight hours, so it makes sense to me. Space for the unrelated has some problems with revealing his secret. His setting seems carefully planned, and I admire his eagerness to tell a contemporary fable, so I can forgive the sometimes awkward execution. It still looks and feels like a soothing sunset for our dark January. It’s like a song with cryptic lyrics – when you play it, you still win something.

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