From 2009’s AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity to this year’s Drunken Robot Pornography, Dejobaan Games has really built a name for itself in the industry as a developer that toys with absurd humor. I think that’s partly why I was so taken aback by the sincere and honest attempt at doing something new with Elegy for a Dead World.
After I finished a single playthrough of the game, I sat back and chatted with Ichiro Lambe, the founder and president of Dejobaan Games. He asked me what I thought of the game and I told him that I’d have to think about it. It took me a while to answer.
Elegy is unlike any game I have ever played. On the most superficial level, it is a side-scroller that tasks the player with moving from left to right in order to progress, but there aren’t any challenges or impediments. Instead, each section of game has a new backdrop of gorgeous alien terrain, depicting crumbling structures and technology. At certain points, the player will receive unobtrusive prompts to write something. The style the player is prompted to write in is determined at the beginning of the game when the player chooses between poetic, story, or blank verse modes. Elegy for a Dead World is all about how people respond to things and construct unique, individual narratives. It demonstrates how creativity moves all people, whether they think they’re creative or not. Each time the game prompts a new written input, it provides context (unless you are playing in blank verse mode) and leaves a number of blanks for the player to fill in with their own words. Of course, all text is editable, not just the blanks, so players never have words forced upon them. With this game, everyone can write a story, a poem, or something else entirely.
Eventually, I told Ichiro what I thought about this strange game that’s based on the works of British Romance-era poets. I told him that the best way I could describe it would be to call this game an inspiration simulator. In a sense, it allows players to discover their own story as they tell it to themselves. That is a concept with which I could fall in love. However, I think there are several ways that Elegy for a Dead World could be improved. One of the main problems that I had was that the game seems to be fairly linear from left to right. Though my character had a jet pack, I never had a reason to use it other than to break up the monotony of moving from one side of the screen to the other. More exploration, more verticality to the levels, and more prompts would serve to fill out Elegy and make traversing the desolation of its world a bit more interesting. I would also be very curious see another implementation of this same approach to gamified storytelling that was based on different eras of poets and storytellers with different visual cues. I guess what I’m saying here is that I love the core concept of this game that I would like to see more of it in almost every respect.
If you get an opportunity, check out Elegy for a Dead World. It is different in a way that should be appreciated and applauded.