Desolate is a hand-painted journey about fighting your inner shadows

Chances are, if you’ve lived life, you’ve disappointed someone. Probably a lot of people. You betrayed them. Or didn’t listen well enough. Maybe you even sacrificed everyone you’ve ever known and loved to the shadow people who invaded your village.

Whoa, I may have gotten a little ahead of myself.

Desolate is a 2D puzzle adventure with a Monet-esque, hand-drawn art style. The developer, Elliot Collis, explains that the story is based on his own experiences with personal growth, of disappointing people and learning to make it up to them by changing for the better. It’s a story about redemption, since in the beginning you abandon those you love most in order to save yourself from said shadow invasion. After a distressful beginning, the game follows your journey toward betterment, but “you need to face your inner shadows and inner self to do so.”

Sometimes we like to refer to recognizing the parts of ourselves you don’t like as facing your “inner demons.” But the humanoid shadow creatures represented in desolate seem much closer to what these parts actually are: human, only misshapen, bent by fear or self-loathing—distortions of the people who we love and who we know could abandon us at any time. Those distortions of our loved ones, living only inside us, can even sometimes seem more real than the people they actually are. And sometimes, those distortions make us them behind..

In desolate, after the players sacrifices the people he loves and realizes his grievous mistake, he must make his way back to the world through a cave. Only the friends and family he left behind are changed: they fear you, appearing morphed. During this drastically different world, you must win back their trust by using the three core mechanics at the right time and with the right person: either touch, speech, or gesture. Depending on the person (or creature), a different level of intimacy is required. The key, it seems, is to listen to their needs or demeanor and then act, rather than just acting on your own impulse.

The setting of desolate combines the vast, expansive landscape of Collis’ New Zealand homeland, with the compact buildings of his current home, Tokyo. The music, which sounds contemplative and lonely, was composed by fellow Kiwi artist and “lifelong friend” of Collis, Ben Tolich.

Desolate will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux if the Kickstarter gets its full funding within the next 3 days. One of the rewards is an artbook of the game which, in and of itself, seems pretty worthwhile. You can also vote for desolate on Steam Greenlight.