Back in simpler times before all this modern technology took over our lives, back in the days of our grandparents and great grandparents, stories and storytelling were traditional entertainment. These days stories in games are still out there but they come with more baggage and can be watered down because of the many systems that are demanded by a modern game. Tumbling Apart reaches back to the art of storytelling and hopes to lead the player on a journey through a simple game with a powerful narrative.
Goodnamehere is the indie studio behind the upcoming Tumbling Apart, scheduled for release in July 2017 through STEAM Greenlight. The demo is open for everyone and is available here. Essentially it is a narrative based game created in RPG Maker that looks to be influenced by titles such as To the Moon and Always Sometimes Monsters. The fact that I got the vibe of these two games while playing the Tumbling Apart demo is a compliment to the developers as they are the standouts in a long list of commercial RPG Maker titles.
The short introductory demo that I played (multiple times) gave me a taste of what this game is striving for and after finishing it, I wanted more. The game has an old school look to it. The 32bit RPG style common to games made in RPG maker is apparent from the beginning. It must be said that the team at Goodnamehere has taken considerable time to differentiate their creation from the hordes of generic RPG Maker games with some slick context sensitive animations and gorgeous parallax backgrounds. Lighting effects on a dark and stormy night with the flash of lightning flaring through the room windows and the twinkle of fire flies in the forest at night all show a beautiful attention to detail. Simple controls work well and fit the gameplay. The undoubted star of the show, for me, is the sound design. The piano tracks ranging from melancholy to tense and powerful, evoked genuine emotion in me and made me more invested in what was happening on screen. The sound effects (rain, thunder, a TV in the background, a started bird, a dog barking) added an aspect of realism to the world.
Tumbling Apart looks to draw you in with its story from the start and have you live it and feel it with the characters. There is a weight behind the 15 minutes of gameplay I experienced that was surprising. The game will have you exploring as the main character Isaac, who is living his pretty tough everyday life and dealing with events that leave him emotionally broken. You will wander around Isaac’s house and a park/graveyard as you learn more about what has come to pass. The narrative in this game is its focus so I do not want to go into more detail because even a demo can be spoiled. I would encourage anyone to spend the relatively short amount of time it takes to experience the demo and find out for themselves. You play out what could be the opening scenes of the game giving yourself some background while building the emotion and the mystery surrounding Isaac and his sister McKenna.
The writing in the game is strong and well thought out. The dialogue is full of feeling that lends itself to the tone of the game. Interactive environments as well as environmental clues/puzzles flesh out how Isaac is feeling, shed more light on the past and progress the gameplay. Tumbling Apart creates an air of mystery that drew me onwards not too dissimilar to the way games like Gone Home and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture drip feed the player to keep them hooked. I was emotionally invested in the story almost immediately and I am very keen to learn more.
The game is still in development but the demo was well put together and this bodes well for the future. It ran smoothly and there were no bugs or hiccups during my play through. That being said, the text sound in the game is slightly jarring and it blunted some of the emotion that had been so expertly built up as I played. There was a small section of the game that tried to inject some extra urgency to the scene with (I think) a decreasing time bar that I felt was not really needed as the urgency was already tangible. These minor things did nothing to take away from my enjoyment of the game.
I was impressed by Tumbling Apart, mostly because the story will always be what I personally gravitate to. Goodnamehere has a foundation of simple gameplay, an emotional hook and a fantastic soundtrack to build on. I will be watching the progress with great anticipation in the hope that it could be the next game that transcends the need for flashy modern gaming systems and tells its story through its solid, simple gameplay, narration, dialogue and setting.