Game: The Search
Developer: Jason Godbey
Publisher: Jason Godbey
There’s an air of finesse to The Search, a beautiful puzzle game that’s very deliberately set in first person. You play as an artist, trapped inside an invisible prison that seems to be a physical manifestation of self-doubt. Mysterious letters signed “The Invisible” sprout on stone podiums, within cages and upon doors, teasing you with clues about “the voice within”. The infinity symbol in game’s logo suggests it’s going be philosophical, and it most certainly is. Carl Jung’s psychological theories on The Self are heavily referenced throughout your adventure, and for the most part, provide interesting intellectual snacks. However, as you plunge deeper, the messages become more abstract—and in my opinion, slightly disconnected from the puzzles. For some players, Jung’s suggestion to make peace with the unconscious will resonate; for others, it may feel trite.
In case you get stuck, there’s an optional clue system to break through potential difficulty barriers. Admittedly, I did use the system a couple of times, but beyond a certain point the puzzles repeat earlier mechanics a bit too much, so the level of challenge unfortunately diminishes. Although the control system is 3D point-and-click through and through, it ends up feeling more like a walking simulator, which is still suitable given the game’s spiritual content. But ultimately, what brings The Search to life is its gorgeous environments, teeming with intricate detail that sometimes convinced me I was touring Salvador Dalí’s house. The artistry is strange, dream-like, replicating the aura of games like Papo & Yo in alternating sequences of light and darkness; your physical surroundings are, in fact, malleable, and probably a manifestation of your unconscious rather than anything truly real. Musically, The Search adopts a rather minimalist approach that relies on the sounds of nature and a fully-voiced narrator, choosing to unleash its melancholic duet of violin and guitar at the very end—and the timing couldn’t be better.
The Search might be a short, reflective piece of work that doesn’t pose serious difficulty, yet its puzzles and environments are expressed in a wonderfully imaginative fashion, create a calming, meditative landscape that will inspire many players to examine assumptions about their sense of self on a deeper level.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.