Sacramento is one of the most pleasant walking simulators I ever got to experience, even though it is so brief. Not only because of how gorgeous the hand-drawn animation of it is but because of its aim. Essentially, this walking simulator has been made from sketches and paintings of the creator during her travels, and it exists as a game that captures her skills at this point of time before they develop further.
Once I started the game I was surprised to find that there was no menu of any sort, but there was a beautiful welcome screen which automatically allowed the game to take its course. Now before dwelling into more details of the game, it is probably worth mentioning that it has no actual ending.
With no way of interacting with the subtle watercolour world besides walking, it is easy to assume that the game’s aim is to address ephemerality. The creator, Daphne Forneau, confirms this in Sacramento’s description; “You’ll wander through an ephemeral and uncanny landscape”. This is where it begins to remind me of The Endless Express, which wants its players to take their time with their journey and make the most of it.
No matter how far you walk in the game, everything eventually fades away into whiteness and you’ll find yourself right back at the start. That is quite fitting considering that Daphne also says that “Sacramento is a game about capturing fleeting memories before they fade”. Absolutely lovely to have a game description so accurate.
Under the influence of Miyazaki’s famous animation Spirited Away, and the resemblance is quite clear. The lines of Daphne’s art appear very confident, and the artist seamlessly blends traditional media along with digital media. Since this is her first solo release, one would assume this is a great way to show off artwork, which was also influenced by Sword and Sworcery. Finding that there was a shortage of little games, she created a world of her own.
Since Sacramento appears to only be a snapshot of the artist’s capabilities at the current time, I thought it would only be fair to compare it to OASES, which has been released a year before to be showcased in Now Play This.
Within OASES, you will find yourself to be a plane, soaring through a kaleidoscopic world. The colours are nowhere near as subtle as in Sacramento, everything just feels so bold. Dedicated to one of the creator’s grandfather who’s plane was reported as missing during the Algerian War of Independence in 1960, one can see this as a caption not only of art skills but of memories and hopes. “This is what I like to think happened to him,” the game says before you go on flying.
Flying through the unknown is similar to walking into the unknown and ephemeral landscape of Sacramento. Except what makes it different is the story behind it. The grandfather’s disappearance came as quite a shock to the family, making OASES very elegiac. Especially since his first child was born a few days later.
Given the control of the little white plane with the arrow keys and the space button, it feels quite liberating to soar through these colourful skies. The world itself is quite comparable to Sacramento, as here everything feels quite ephemeral too. After every ‘level’, the game goes back to the main screen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means that every time you start the game it is a fresh experience, another way to go somewhere with more vibrant colours.
The game begins with showing the plane on fire, before submerging in a black hole in the middle of an orange desert. Then we enter this dreamy colourful world with the plane fully repaired, and all is well as the upbeat music makes the aimless flying all the better. Now, when I say it is a dreamy world, I mean it. Being able to speed boost, crash into structures and any of the surroundings with no consequences makes the game appear quite childish.
Beyond any doubt, both of the games are monumental, celebrating ephemerality and mystery while representing what is important to the creators. Although the art style certainly varies between the two games, they are more than certainly very good games that will help you kill some time in colourful surroundings for the price you name.
Magdalena Kolodziej is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. You can find her on Twitter @magda_0019