Obsidian

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1996). Rocket Science Games. Designed by Howard Cushnir, Scott Kim, Adam Wolff. Platforms: Win (1996); Mac (1997).

The striking commercial success of the first person graphical Adventure game Myst (1993 Cyan Worlds, Mac, Win; 1994 Saturn; 1995 3DO, JaguarCD, PS1; 1996 CDi; 1997 Amiga; 2006 PSP) designed by Rand Miller, Robyn Miller spawned a number of descendants. Obsidian replaced Myst's fantasy landscapes with a surreal world created by a malfunctioning AI from the dreams of its creators. The core gameplay, however, strongly resembled that of its model; interactivity was traded off for graphical quality, meaning that the player can only move to specific points in space for which three-dimensional visuals have been created in advance. At the beginning of the game the player takes the part of Lilah Kerlins, a scientist who has gone on a camping holiday with her partner Max to celebrate the successful launch of Ceres, a satellite they designed to repair the ozone layer by releasing Nanotechnological devices into the upper atmosphere. The pair discover a strange crystalline formation, apparently formed from obsidian glass, and become trapped inside it. Soon the player discovers that the formation was created by Ceres, which has become sentient and wishes to learn about its makers by observing how they explore an artificial world.

The impressive visual design of Ceres' nanotechnologically constructed world draws from Jungian psychology and surrealism; it bears some resemblance to the films of the Czech artist Jan Švankmajer. The several different areas traversed by the player each have their own aesthetics. Notably, the first to be encountered is a cubist reimagining of a bureaucratic maze, full of talking television sets on articulated arms. The puzzles are often difficult, depending on the player's ability to determine the rules of an alien logic. In general, progression through the game is quite linear; as puzzles are solved, new areas become accessible. At the end, the player must attempt to persuade Ceres that humanity is not simply another form of pollution to be cleansed from the Earth. [NT]

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