by Josh Ennor
Charlie Kaufman…? Is that you…?
Epanalepsis is a 2D point and click indie adventure game from Cameron Kunzelman. It has it’s roots firmly planted in narrative storytelling. It explores the stories interlinked stories of three complete strangers across the space of sixty years. It is one of those games that makes me feel like there’s a level of creative genius that my brain is just…missing.
Full disclosure: The wonderful people from Mastertronic provided us with a press copy of Epanalepsis at our request, which we are truly thankful for!
Epanalepsis takes place (in what I believe to be the same street) spread across three intervals of a sixty year period. It is an extremely atmospheric game, which is really where the thrill of this game comes from. Everywhere from the inner-monologue of the characters you play as, to the one sentence phrases muttered by the people you walk past on the street.
There is definitely an argument to be made about this game being “pretentious”, in both story and mode of delivery as it does certainly feel that way at first. However, these people are probably the same people who left the theater halfway through Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind because they “didn’t get it” because the more you sink into the world created by Kunzelman and the more you play it, the more you understand about the world and the more you begin to feel as though you are actually a part of it.
A single playthrough tells you very little about what is actually happening, which is not a bad thing considering once you know where to find the stapler and zine paper, you can blitz through the game in about 25 minutes, which isn’t a fantastic “value for money” purchase initially, but the value lies in this games replayability. There’s always something a little extra you’re going to be able to pick as you make your way through the game again and again.
Kunzelman has done a really great job of making you feel as though you are actually invested in the world, where you feel like you have actually experienced things prior to the ten minutes that you get to spend in each time. It is definitely a well written game, and a narrative focused point and click adventure game really needs that to thrive.
The gameplay of Epanalepsis leaves a lot to be desired. The characters walk pretty slow, there’s no indicator of when you are close enough to an object to interact with it, so I found myself spamming the left mouse button and walking towards the fridge until eventually a dialogue box popped over my characters head. Sometimes, when the dialogue box finally appears, it is halfway outside the screen, which I don’t really care about when my character is explaining why she has the shower curtain she has. But when I am having a conversation with someone about my destiny, I’d REALLY like to be able to read the whole conversation.
Another issue I have with the dialogue, is how much of it I have to get to before I am given the chance to make my “decision”. I am an avid reader, and even I got bored of reading the same conversation 3-4 times in the space of one session (which involved multiple playthroughs, mind you).
The pixel art style is wonderful, although I feel a little more consistency could not have hurt. The characters and their homes are wonderfully designed and feel very “meshing”, however the second you set foot onto the street, the posters in shop windows feel rushed and do not blend in well with the rest of the world at all. Perhaps this sort of juxtaposition is what Kunzelman was going for, and if that is the case, he has certainly achieved it. But I personally feel a more universal approach to the art style would have helped his case a hell of a lot more than any contrasting would have. (That, and I seriously hate bad kerning.)
Epanalepsis is not a bad game. Epanalepsis is a great game. It’s just not for everyone. Every criticism that I have mentioned above can be fixed without the game changing terribly. It’s most important feature is of course it’s story and that is where this game absolutely shines. I do recommend it. But not unless you’re in the mood to think.
|Release Date:||Out now|
|Available from:||Steam ($6.99USD)|
|Developed by:||Monogon Games|
Josh is one of the four main writers here at OK Games. When he is not working, he is letting his pets on furniture that they’re not allowed on and sometimes he pretends to study so that his Fiancee will get off his back. You can find him on Twitter, where he usually tweets about the Sacramento Kings and quotes from movies he is watching.