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Trailer Review(s): Journey & Soul Brother

By / Posted on 15 December 2010

Two trailers for new games from developers I’ve greatly enjoyed in the past were released last week, and both were enthralling. Rather than choose one over the other, let’s just look at both and smile, shall we?

Journeythatgamecompany is prepping to release their third title for the Playstation Network (thus fulfilling the small studio’s three game contract with Sony they signed fresh out of college). Journey offers two immediate differences from flOw and Flower: humanoids and a color palette circling the reddish-browns. I suppose it only makes sense, after games that took place in the seas and the skies that thatgamecompany finally sees fit to walk upon the Earth like the rest of us.

Little is known about Journey so far, only that it is an accessible online multiplayer adventure wherein players explore vast expanses uncovering relics of an ancient civilization and interacting with one another silently and anonymously. That’s right, it’s online multiplayer, but you have no way of knowing who the other people you’re playing with are or talking to them. Normally these concepts would seem daunting, but PSN has already experimented with nonviolent massively multiplayer online experience in the form of Keita Takahashi’s Noby Noby Boy (a personal favorite), and thatgamecompany proved with their award-winning Flower to be masters of both nonverbal communication and universal emotion, so these elements of Journey are a very natural next step in the indie game evolutionary process.

One thing is plainly apparent in this trailer: the art direction is absolutely stunning. Check out the way the ribbons waft like wobbling heroin junkies in the wind, the heat distortion of distant sands and the shifting sheets of snow. At the very least, Journey will be gorgeous on your HDTV, but that sweet reveal in the final shot of climbing up a hill where a second player is waiting, watching the horizon, the heart is suddenly overcome as the intense loneliness of the preceding footage is instantly replaced by hope and possibility. Together, perhaps, these players may actually be able to accomplish something. What that is we still do not know, but after the events of Flower I’m sure many indie gamers are already preparing themselves for deeply personal pangs of human experience.

Soul BrotherOn the flipside of the indie game coin, there is Soul Brother, the upcoming Flash platformer from Superflat Games, developer of the truly-weird-but-completely-engaging Rockabilly Head. Soul Brother looks to be the first games released by Superflat developer Jasper Byrne since leaving a bigger studio environment to be entirely indie. That last game he worked on? A little XBox 360 pet simulator called Kinectimals. You may have seen a million commercials for it or even gotten one of its kids’ meal toys at Burger King last month.

Here comes the trailer. Prepare yourself for some funk up in here.

Dig that sweet pastel color scheme and the scan lines that make it look almost crocheted somehow. There’s a very home-crafty folk art kind of thing happening here and I love it. The game seems to be about a soul exploring a Metroid/Castlevania-type environment (albeit way cuter) by possessing the animals that inhabit the trap-filled world. Every time the creature you control dies, the soul is passed along to the nearest other creature, and all the animals have their own unique moves and abilities to help the soul in his quest.
Soul Brother
The sheer frequency and variety of traps seen in the trailer suggest that the game is going to be a bit on the hard side, which is good as far as these types of platformers go, and the titles on the bottom of each screen suggest that we’ll see lots of single-room challenges much like this year’s indie darling Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV (which itself was borrowing those ideas from so many classic PC games, so it’s all fair and retro). Mostly, though, the game is just charming to look at and is already drawing a lot of comparisons to the original Kirby’s Dream Land. And just look at that soul (to the right). ADORABLE. Jasper says the game is completed and fully polished, just looking for a sponsor, as is the big thing with Flash developers nowadays, so look for Soul Brother in a web browser near you pretty darn soon.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.