Passage: a personal review

Title Passage

  • Format: iPhone/PC
  • Unleashed: Out now
  • Publisher: Jason Rohrer
  • Developer: Jason Rohrer
  • Players: 1

Can games be art? What is art? Both good questions, yet open to so much individual opinion it would take years to come to any kind of conclusion, if there was any at all. How about this then; What’s the point of life? We’re not talking life on earth but rather; what’s the point of your life? To make as much money as possible, to get as far as you can from your home town or is the most important thing to see as much of the world as you can? Maybe you’re wondering where this review is going, and we don’t blame you.

You may or may not have heard of Passage. It has just recently become available for the iPhone and happens to be the very answer to the question that this review began with, can games be art. The answer however, lies with you. There is no right or wrong way to ‘play’ Passage; there is a score meter, there are things to collect, but in the end there will only be one conclusion; your conclusion. It all hinges on how you see the ‘game’. We could talk about the collision detection or the simple controls. Perhaps even the lack of a jump button. But to do this would be to miss the point of Passage entirely. This is a pure and simple interactive metaphor for those who touch it. Maybe you’re not that reflective, maybe you’ll have one go of it and go “What was the point in that?” and never pick it up again. That’s fine, because that’s exactly how some of us treat our lives. We go from one end to the other without thinking, and before we know what’s happened, it’s over.

Passage 1Some of us though, look a little deeper. To write about Passage as an all-powerful games mag would be to do it an injustice, so just this once I’m going to break the rules and write in the first person to tell you about my experience. The first thing I encountered in Passage was a girl and we both fell in love, she was with me every move I made thereafter and though was a bit of a hindrance at times I noticed our score increased in the doubles since we met, so the sacrifice (so it seemed to me) was worth us being together. As we moved through the maze finding riches (and sometimes emptiness) we progressed fairly well. Until I noticed rather suddenly that she was going grey; as I looked at myself it seemed I was ageing rather fast also. A sudden panic set in and we tried to go backwards into the level in an attempt to rewind time (gamer’s logic), but the screen had become fuzzy behind us now, rather than in front of us. So I tried to guide us to the top of the screen as fast as possible to find our way forward to the end, she was unfortunately not to make it that far. Due to the ravages of age she passed away and left me alone, I was able to navigate my way a little better now, though at a much slower pace. I pressed on in a straight line at the top of the screen trying to reach the end, but I was too old and too slow. My own vanity as a gamer made me angry that I didn’t do as well as I felt I should have. The 8-Bit music seemed a more sullen tone to me now, and I gave way to the same fate as my lost love whom I’d left behind, and I became a headstone too. For all our searching, the final score seemed to mean nothing. It appeared there was no ‘end’ to this ‘level’, only the end of my journey, and my lingering thoughts of how I could have done it differently. And if I could have done it differently, what difference would it make?

Passage 2The very point of Passage is that it is as unique to the individual that ‘plays’ it as their outlook on life. It may only take five minuets, and may seem pointless to some, but some of us might find a reflection of ourselves in these fleeting minutes and become moved by what they feel afterwards. And after all, isn’t that the point of art?

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Written by R.Furie

Ross has been playing games since he can remember and has had games machines around him all his life. He's what we now refer to as "Old Skool" because he grew up playing games with a hand carved wooden joystick on a TV forged from rope and stone. Nourished on a diet of Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Joust, Gauntlet, Bomber Jack and other various wholesome arcades he has grown to become a versatile and open minded gamer. Favouring the style of open-world games he's sure VR can't be far away, and looks forward to attaching himself to a colostomy bag and slipping into a deep VR coma so he need never have to deal with real life again.

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