Game Review: Fragments
A 2019 Global Game Jam entry invites you to piece together a story as you explore an ethereal space and discover memory fragments that are hidden within. It features striking visuals, smooth gameplay, and a soundscape that builds as you uncover the secrets.
is an "ambient explorer with a focus on a charred aesthetic" in which you explore memory fragments that start to build a story as you mentally piece them together. The game was made in Cape Town, South Africa, during the 2019 Global Game Jam, which had a theme of "What Home Means To You". It was developed by Ross Borchers (programming and sound) and Kelly McCarter (art) and is free to play in a browser (HTML5) or you can download a version for Windows
The game was developed in Unity
and the developers submitted the source files as part of the Global Game Jam upload so you can download the package and poke around if you're curious to see how it all comes together.
The visuals are all in black and white and are slightly abstract to depict the elasticity and fluidity of memory. You take the form of a semi corporeal, vaguely humanoid particle swirl and you begin in a representation of a house (there is a ceiling fan, a mat, four windows, and a door) and can hear a faint sound of crackling fire.
You can't move through the house's existing features but you can move through the non existent walls. Once you get "outside" you are free to move in any direction and through most items that will start to appear in your surroundings.
As you move around the area trees, rocks, and plants will begin to fade into existence in front of you, and will disappear behind you (the house always remains visible) and the faster you move the more disembodied you become. Conversely you reassemble into a humanoid shape as you slow down. You will also start to discover objects that belong in your house and they will offer clues as to what is going on in the game as you start to piece together the story.
You control your avatar using either the WASD or arrow keys and the movement is smooth. As a design element the movement actually keeps you fairly static in the middle of the screen (until you reach the far edges and the point-of-view camera stops moving) while the rest of the game area moves relative to you based on your key presses but it feels as if you are drifting through the scene. It adds to the vaguely unsettling ethereal sense that you experience as you start to play the game, which only grows as you continue and start to make discoveries.
The screenshots really can't capture how wonderful the visuals are as their three dimensional fluidity forms part of their aesthetic and is crucial to the emotional heart of this piece. I would also recommend headphones as the stereo audio builds into an unsettling soundscape as you move around and explore the environment.
is a quick game that you can play on a lunch break - it'll take you about five minutes to discover everything, although it ends a little swiftly after building so much tension - but the impression it leaves will linger.
Fragments: Global Game Jam Page
, itch.io Game Page
Play Online: itch.io
Download: Global Game Jam
Ross Borchers: GitHub
, Global Game Jam
Kelly McCarter: Global Game Jam
, South African Games
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