Originally created as a short title for a 2014 Ludum Dare game jam, old-timey narrative adventure game The Lion’s Song is now getting a full release. According to a new trailer for the game, four episodes are planned in total, expanding it beyond the “finely honed short story” of the original and into an extended interrogation of academic life in fin-de-siecle Austria.
The game stars three different turn-of-the-century artists and scientists as they struggle to find inspiration and learn how to cope with the pressures of success, as well as those of their time period. “To succeed in a world of men…” says one of the protagonists as she sits on a bench within what looks to be a university courtyard, “…I had to act like one.” As a crowd walks in front of her, she quickly trades her dress and updo for a suit-and-tie.
The rest of the trailer focuses on tapping pencils, restless nights, and tears as our characters stall in their work. Particularly striking is a scene where one of our leads stares expressionless into a mirror, his only company being his own blank reflection.
This sense of isolation is at stark contrast with the original game, the prompt for which was “connected worlds.” In it, a young composer named Wilma struggles with her work in a remote cabin until she receives a phone call from a friend who offers her comfort. The idea, explains developer Stefan Srb in a post-mortem, was to “depict a world in which the telephone was something new” and how it allowed for “the bridging of long distances that shrunk the world and didn’t at the same time.” Notable is how the game used split-screen to accomplish this, and though the split-screen seems to be gone now in service of the larger narrative, the need for connection appears to be as vital as ever.