A beautiful hand-drawn musical adventure through the mind.
The mind is a complex thing and how it deals with trauma is even more complicated. Figment, a game that's due for release this summer, looks to explore these intricate themes in a colourful and playful fashion utilising a distinctive, hand-drawn art style, and the first thing to note is that you're dealing with a distinctly musical game here - trumpets and guitars stick up out the ground like vegetation and many of the game's characters spontaneously break out into song at any given opportunity. This score of musical performances gives the game quite a light-hearted tone, despite the fact it's examining a potentially serious subject matter.
You set out on this adventure as Dusty, the mind's former voice of courage who became obsolete after the brain overcome its previous trauma, and the grumpy former hero is joined by his ever-optimistic friend, Piper, as they try to figure out the new threat that appears to have taken away the mind's courage again and populated it with nightmares and terrors. You'll journey through the different areas of the mind in the game, solving puzzles to set things straight, beating back the nightmares, and seeking to restore the courage that's been lost.
The mechanics are simple yet intuitive, allowing you to explore the 3D isometric environment with ease, and the puzzles are intelligent and satisfying as well, often taking on musical themes in keeping with the game's design. Dusty can roll, pick up and place items as well as attack with his sword, which offers two modes of attack, one being a quick strike whilst the other is a charged up slash that has a large area of effect. Many of Figment's mechanics refer back to the mind you explore, seeing you pick up endorphins and adrenalin to boost your character. You also collect fragments of memory that further allude to the narrative.
Dusty starts off the game content in the belief that the mind no longer needs him, with the keen intention to continue putting his feet up before being disturbed by his friend, Piper. He soon finds that a nightmare creature has infected the area of the brain he inhabits and has stolen his scrap book. He chases down the creature, but it escapes and he gives pursuit heading to the Freedom Isles, the creative centre of the subconscious mind, which showcases the distinct designs of each section of the brain. The Freedom Isles are bursting with colour and musical instruments jut from the ground, notes flowing into the air, and it seems each area in Figment has its own defining characteristics, giving the game plenty of variety.
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Figment's graphical style is something of particular note, as its hand-drawn graphics are certainly striking. The game seems inspired by artists such as Paul Kidby, who is known for his work with Terry Pratchett on the Discworld series, and the illustrations of Quentin Blake, famed for his work on Roald Dahl's published works. It has a painted quality to it which fits the striking colours and scenery of the different brain areas you explore. The animations are relatively smooth, with all of the character's actions being captured effectively, and the fighting sections feeling fluid too. The game certainly draws on a number of art styles, making its world interesting and enthralling to discover.
The soundtrack could be described as dynamic as it features a wide mix of musical styles, with the game world itself coming alive to form part of the soundtrack as you interact with the environment. Characters sing to each other as you uncover the music within this world and you trigger new sections of the score as you solve puzzles and progress. Each area has its own adaptive musical tone on top of this, setting up a distinctive feel to each zone of the brain that highlights how important the music is to the aesthetic of this game.
Overall Figment offers an interesting and relaxing adventure in a colourful world that is alive with music. Its puzzles are complex enough to draw your attention, yet they don't leave you struggling to pass areas for long periods of time as you try to work out what to do. Its characters have depth and relate to serious themes in a unique way too, and the whole thing has a magical, fairytale-like quality to it that hopefully comes across in the final build, although even in its current state it seems like the perfect way to examine how the mind deals with and processes trauma. Figment is set for a summer 2017 release on PC and MAC, as well as a possible console release around the same time.