It’s amazing how quickly games can be developed now. With the flood of toxic waste that some scam-artists try to sell on Steam, it’s easy to forget just how many good games are created by indie developers who simply enjoy making games. I often look at Game Jams, events in which small teams of developers get together and make a game in a set amount of time, as a bastion of hope for the future of games development. No matter how many people try to poison the well, there’s still a lot of water down there that’s fresh and clean.

I’ve competed in a couple of these game jams in the past – I can’t make games, but I can supply music and sound design to developers. I’m always surprised by how good the entries often are. In such short time limits, people manage to create some really fun projects, that aren’t hastily thrown onto Steam in an attempt to make a fast buck. They’re totally free to play, created by small developers who just want to create games, learn and have fun.

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Occasionally, however, you come across a game that’s so well crafted, it’s hard to believe that it was actually created in such a short space of time. Tourist is one of those games. I’m a big fan of The Charnel House Trilogy, a game that I consider to be the best point and click adventure I’ve ever played. When I heard that Owl Cave, the studio behind the game, had created a short point and click adventure for Asylum Jam 2015, I absolutely had to give it a try, and once again, they haven’t disappointed.

Like The Charnel House Trilogy, Tourist is a game with a chilling atmosphere and a spine tingling storyline. It’s also far shorter, taking less than 20 minutes to complete. The game is a masterpiece of minimalism.  There are only five items to interact with, and the entire story takes place within a single room, but even with these minimal assets, the game still manages to tell a succinct and effective narrative in a skin-crawlingly effective way.

The writing is as strong as you would expect from an Owl Cave game. The vibe is creepy, without wheeling out clichéd horror tropes. The premise is simple: You play as a woman staying at a hotel, getting ready for a conference. You look around the room, searching for items you’ll require for the day’s activities.

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The narrative is a slow build up, leading to an avalanche. It’s kind of like walking up the stairs in the dark. Everything’s fine until you reach the top of the stairs and you think there’s one more step. Your foot comes down, finds nothing but thin air, and for a moment, nothing is right with the world and you’re terrified.

It’s over incredibly suddenly, but the story doesn’t feel rushed at all. When I was hit by the sickening twist that concludes the narrative, I was definitely left wanting more. I can’t say any more without giving spoilers away, but I will say that things get really dark, really fast, and when the game throws its big twist in your direction, you definitely won’t see it coming.

The art style’s absolutely gorgeous – it’s incredible to consider that all the artwork was completed in only 2 days. The hand drawn aesthetic embraces a low key, muted colour scheme and it supports the haunting storyline, giving the game a really unique look.

Tourist is set entirely in the daylight, and this game does a great job of demonstrating how not all terrors are hidden in the darkness, as so many horror games would have you believe. The situation is eerily normal for much of the game, so when you’re hit with the big surprise, everything goes off the rails so suddenly that the moment has huge impact. If this story took place at night, in an abandoned hotel with spider webs in the corners, it’d be a hell of a lot less effective.

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My only criticism of the game is related to the sound: Ask any composer, and they’ll tell you how easy it is to spot a royalty free soundtrack in a game. It’s a real pet peeve of mine. There’s just something about this kind of music that sticks out, and it’s always a shame when a potentially great game lets itself down with a substandard soundtrack. Unfortunately, this game uses a collection of pieces by Kevin MacLeod, composer of the majority of the royalty free pieces used in so many Steam greenlight trailers. The selections are nice, and the pieces really compliment the story, but I wish the game featured some original music.

Of course, as the game was created in only 48 hours, it would be unreasonable to expect it to feature an original soundtrack, but it certainly would’ve been a massive improvement to the finished product. At this point I’m just clutching at straws looking for something to criticise, as the only other criticism I can come up with is, “why haven’t you made more of these games?”

It’s great to see a developer putting out a game for free, just for the love of the craft, and I’d love to see more point and click shorts like this, perhaps packaged into a collection. I’d even be willing to pay for it.

There’s really not a whole lot more to say about Tourist – there’s so little to it that I can’t say much without giving away key plot details. All I can really do is stress again just how effective it is with its minimalist gameplay and simple aesthetic. If you’re a windows user, I recommend you go ahead and give this game a try, even if you’re not a fan of point and click adventures – this one’s well worth twenty minutes of your time.

If this is what Owl Cave can do in two days, then damn… I’d love to see what they could do in a week.

About The Author

Contributor

As a composer and video game enthusiast, Philip has spent years searching for a way to combine his passions for both music and gaming. Then, one day, he figured he could just write about them. He loves to over-analyse the way music helps to shape the player's emotional response in a game. He also loves to criticise bad control schemes, because... Well, they just get on his nerves.

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