If you’re looking for a calm and tranquil way to spend an hour of your time, look no further than the exploration platformer that is Mandagon. Inspired by Tibetan theology and philosophy, Mandagon is a world set within a Tibetan limbo where you, a small but vigilant totem must persist. Blind Sky Studios have developed a vivid and thought-provoking experience in this short, but also thoroughly immersive tale.
You enter this world as a mini totem, with an eager desire to escape the seemingly desolate landscape that lies before you. Along the way, you’ll encounter other larger totems with ominous riddles that will paint a larger picture of you and your surroundings. Eerie and altogether mysterious, each of these totems have some pretty reflective and poetic texts that further tie in the spiritual atmosphere of this game.
Apart from cryptic riddles, the main purpose of Mandagon is to collect a series of hidden tablets that will unlock a larger door. Although progression through the game may be criticised for being too simplistic, it can be thought as more of an exploration platformer than a puzzle solving one. Instead, the game encourages you to reflect on the journey at hand and what that means before considering anything else.
Mandagon is a very basic and straightforward game that functions pretty much like any other platformer to date. You’ll be hopping and jumping left to right, up and down to further explore every inch of the level the game has to offer. At times the platforming mechanics can even be inventive through the use of wooden elevator shafts and underwater instances. The exploration aspect is achieved by finding tablets and totems inside the level. These mechanics of ‘search and collect’ are very basic. You’ll rarely find yourself at a standstill of what to do next. There’s also has a map that comes in handy quite a lot. This map is easily readable and at often times incredibly useful for finding tablets and getting your bearings.
Mandagon has a breathtaking and well-detailed environment. The Tibetan inspired aesthetic is achieved rather well by the barren and chipped architecture that is showcased throughout the game. The sound in Mandagon has equal importance and further constructs a sense of ambience within the game. The music evokes a calming presence as you traverse through the level yet also delivers a hint of uneasiness. Every inch of sound you trigger by interacting with certain objects are cleverly placed, from the faint subtleties of sound that linger from either running into birds or the clear rattle of the elevator platform as you ride on it.
It’s hard to believe this is actually a free to play game. It could easily come with a price tag and still be well worth the experience. Admittedly Mandagon can be a bit cryptic in its narrative at first, but eventually, things will become clear and make sense. Blind Sky Studios have thoroughly produced a game that is not only beautiful but spiritual as well. Mandagon is a special journey that will make you ponder life and do some serious soul searching.
Sunita Osborne is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. You can find her on Twitter @SunitaOsborne