In many ways, ΘRAΩLE is an accompaniment to the “introspective night driving” of Glitchhikers. For starters, the two games partly share the same creator: self-confessed surrealism and computer glitch obsessive ceMelusine. Beyond that, there’s an attempt to pick at your psyche with a series of ambiguous stimuli—in Glitchhikers, it’s the enlightening suggestions of your ghostly passengers; in ΘRAΩLE, you read into the meaning of abstract and sacred symbolism.
The difference in ΘRAΩLE is that you outwardly project rather than internalize the images you see. “Oracle of Analara. I have made my sacrifice,” the words rising from your mystical pink campfire read, “Tell me of my fate…”
It’s at this point that your eyes roll back in your head as if to enter a spiritual realm that breeds premonition. Black-and-white visions then blink before you: holy crosses, crumpled moons, distant villages, enshrouding cages, quiet caves. The obscurity intrinsic to low-poly art is used here to imply hallowed icons and gloomy emblems. Over the course of the sequence, objects are removed and added to the same scene as if a storyboard.
Once it’s all over, you return to the bonfire site, where you’re presented with a number of words and sometimes signs to pick from. What did that supernatural engagement tell you of this person’s fate? Whatever you end up choosing, the fortune you have predicated appears as three sentences. They’re auguries and predestination that often involve sacrament, death, Shakespearian regicide, and pursuits of treasure—medieval sensibilities and mythic journeys are common.
There are no right answers, of course—this is wholly an exercise in, as ceMelusine tells me, “how we communicate meaning.” The point, then, is to play with suggestion, to find satisfaction in connotation.
“Basically, I’ve decided that games ought to be a bit more like music, so this is my attempt to pretend like they are,” ceMelusine says.
Rather than rhymes and beats, ΘRAΩLE‘s procedurally generated visions act as a lyrical canvas for us to engage in an epistemological exercise. It’s just like sitting down to listen to an album with the lyric booklet at hand, joining the dots between verse and chord to understand what each song is about.
ΘRAΩLE is just the first part of ceMelusine’s “east van EP.” Over the next year, he will fill this collection up with three other short games that’ll constitute his effort to bring videogames closer to the allegorical form of music.
You can purchase ΘRAΩLE for $2 on itch.io.