Most of the time these things end on a cliffhanger...
The line between interactive entertainment and gaming is a constantly blurring one, and Far from Noise is another game that poses a question or two in that general direction. In truth, there's not much game here, but that doesn't matter when the experience on offer is as charming, relaxing, and downright intriguing as this one is.
There's not a whole lot to tell you, so this review will likely be unusually brief. Far from Noise takes place exclusively on the edge of a cliff. A young woman, in search of peace and quiet and somewhere to contemplate life, the universe, and everything, has accidentally put herself in a very precarious position. Her Citroen 2CV (or Laura, as we called it) has rolled forwards and is balanced on the very edge of the cliff - think the scene at the end of The Italian Job, but here it's a knackered old French car carrying a solitary young woman instead of a bus full of cockney crooks.
And that's pretty much it for the most part. The nameless woman sits in her car, contemplating her situation, monologuing to herself about not only her predicament, but also about life in general. It's a scenario that leads to plenty of soul-searching, and thanks to the subtle introduction of another, slightly absurd character as the story progresses, we gain more insight into the life of the woman with whom we're sharing this strange little moment.
There are a few branching elements to explore if you decide to replay the game, but these appear to be largely conversational variations, and it must be said that we had little desire to go back and play it through again upon completion, and we didn't finish the second pass. We don't mean that as a negative, though, as the narrative had a gentle but well-paced flow to it, and the experience felt complete with just the one play.
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It felt complete thanks largely to some superb writing. The cel-shaded art-style was certainly cleverly done (although some of the more intricate details will be lost if you play on a small screen), and the camera positioning for the game left us with a beautiful vista to behold, but it was the writing that really won us over. We were able to subtly shape our character as we played thanks to dialogue options, but these were gentle nudges in pre-determined directions, and the overall personality of this young lady was consistent throughout. We liked her. She was funny, a little bit oddball, and had a lovely turn of phrase that we really warmed to.
Throughout the short but sweet experience, the dialogue options gave us the chance to flirt with some philosophical issues, but it never got bogged down in this respect, which meant it was able to touch on some interesting themes while also avoiding being overly defined by them. We were constantly delighted by the tone and style of the writing, and there was a definite theme around being mindful that was refreshingly simple. Perhaps we could have been given a little more background to get our teeth stuck into, because if anything we didn't feel like we got to know her well enough.
The soundtrack certainly helped immerse us in the moment, and we'd recommend sticking to the advice given to you as you boot up the game: wear a headset. The score is delicate and simple, but it was certainly fitting of the mood that the game's creator-in-chief, George Batchelor, was aiming for, and coupled with seldom used but well-timed audio effects, it made for a well-rounded overall product that cleverly blends narrative, audio, and visual style.
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We rather enjoyed this subtle interactive experience, and it's a nice way to spend a couple of hours of an evening, listening to the calming soundscape while making quirky dialogue choices. However, for all its charm there's not a huge amount of variation on offer, and unless you warm to the scenario and voice of the characters as we did, you might not take a huge amount away from the experience. It's a recommendation then, but one with a caveat; this is more experience than game, and if you're after something more reactive or revelatory then perhaps it won't be for you. If on the other hand, you like playing games as much as you do taking walks and enjoying the natural world around you, you'd do well to give Far from Noise a couple of hours of your time.
7 / 10
Lovely atmosphere, gentle but engaging experience, good audio design, clever writing.
A little vague in places, visual detail gets lost on a small screen, not much incentive to play it again.