One of the reasons I started this blog was so I could talk about creations that I loved, but weren’t getting the amount of attention they deserve. This could include comics, books, animations, or, as I’ll be discussing today, games. The second I bought this game I was filled with creative energy, the type of passion you get when you’ve found something special. It’s the type of passion that keeps projects like this going, a source of inspiration for future creations. I knew I wanted to discuss this game, but I thought I should probably play it first. Now that I’ve had a significant amount of time with it, I’m going to be talking about a hidden gaming gem: No Thing.
If you’re only going to take away two things from this piece, I want it to be these;
- Just because elements of a game seem random do not mean that they are
- Games that are hard, yet simple in gameplay are not all designed to make the players rage
What makes this game so special is also what leads to a lot of division between players. Without understanding the intricacies of No Thing, many of its subtler elements can be overlooked, leading to a skewed perception of the game. This misinterpretation of context is what made me want to write about No Thing in the first place. The first thing we need to understand is the plot. The game tells the story of an ordinary office clerk who goes on a journey, having an important message for the Queen of Ice. The year is 1994, yet it’s contradictorily in the future and set within a totalitarian regime. Most of our knowledge of the plot comes from either the summary seen when you bought the game, or chunks of text spoken to the player by an unknown monotone voice. I love this concept so much. It’s so bizarre, and what’s important about bizarre is that it gets people thinking. And soon, you realise that the bizarreness of the game bleeds into reality, and you begin realising the life you live is absurd in some aspects also.
Artistically, No Thing is both incredibly complex and incredibly simple simultaneously. In the player’s immediate vision, there is only plain white platforms that the we must run along. As the paths change direction, the player must change directions also Progressively, the speed of the character gets quicker, and changing directions becomes more reflexive than rhythmic. On top of that, little bumps in the road can send you airborne, so in some passages you must direct yourself midair so you land below safely. If you try your hardest to focus on only these platforms, there really isn’t much to this game. But this is basically impossible to do. In our peripheral vision, a bunch of bizarre imagery surrounds our path. Large floating heads, swaying crowds of people and other incredibly random visuals appear as the game progresses, causing incredibly surreal situations weaved throughout our player’s journey.
The gameplay, difficulty and visuals would be enough to make any game stimulating. However, layered on top of all these elements is peculiar auditory experiences. I found the music to be very engaging, providing interesting trance-like grooves. It linked well with the speed increases throughout the level to form a uneasy feeling, and while its not something I’ll listen to outside the game, it was so effective and unique that it must be commended. What is really worth discussing, however, is the random phrases thrown at the player by the aforementioned monotone voice. We don’t know who is saying these things to us, but the way they’re delivered suggest that their content effects the office clerk on a personal level. However, as the context of this game isn’t spelled out for us, to the actual player these words mean nothing, and at most provide confusing, yet entertaining dialogues.
When you first play the game, all you can talk about is the strange visuals and sounds, and how random they are. But when you start combining the phrases, story and greater social context, the player is given a stark view of society and the mediocrity of life, and how bizarre these structures are themselves. The voice constantly acknowledges how insignificant each person is within the world, and how totalitarian government is inherently flawed. Further, the voice also seems to empathise, or at least sympathise with the mundanity of the office clerk’s life. Living a boring and unsatisfying lifestyle would be hard for anyone, and this mediocrity has supposedly seeped into our player’s being. The player actually feels for the character they’re playing as. This is his big break, his big chance to be go on adventure. To be someone. To meaningfully effect his surroundings. So savour this moment, because when it’s gone, the rat race of mediocrity begins all over again.
No Thing is not just a random rage game. It’s a poetic look into a dark and dreary future. This doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of a totalitarian regime however, it could be instead due to unfulfillment and underachieving. These complex topics aren’t spoon fed to the player, they are instead given in chunks in the form of visual and auditory distortions. The monotone voice is both poetic and lacerating at the same time, chilling the player to their core. Overall No Thing has every thing I look for in a good game. Interesting story with exceptional execution, unique visuals, actual difficulty and addictive gameplay. There were only two things I didn’t like about the game. One was its menus, which were sometimes difficult to navigate due to weird visuals, and the other was death animation, which seemed to be unnecessarily loud. The death itself may be significant, with the player appearing to have cracked a screen, as if we were looking through glass, but even if this is representative of something it became annoying at times.
If pricing is a big selling point for you, I should note that I bought this game for $2! And honestly it doesn’t feel fair, I feel like I’m cheating someone. But this game is so cheap there seriously should be no reason why you shouldn’t buy it. Whether you’ll play it once or invest the next 3 weeks into perfecting and extracting all it has to offer, No Thing is an exciting and profound experience that I really enjoyed.