Strangeland, a new point-and-click adventure from Primordia creator Wormwood Studios, follows a terrified amnesiac stuck within the boundaries of a bizarre, terrifying amusement park drowning beneath terrible darkness. The narrative begins suddenly, with a lady leaping to her death—not for the first time, the raven warns—but as it proceeds, it becomes evident that the actual mystery is not what it appears to be.
I’ve played Strangeland for a few hours now, not quite enough to finish it but more than enough to become hooked, and the deeper I go, the better it becomes. On the surface, it’s a fairly traditional point-and-clicker, with people to chat to and “use-this-on-that” puzzles to complete, but the tale is infused with a gloom that often makes the “game” feel almost inconsequential.
Despite this, creator Mark Yohalem stated in a recent developer blog that the riddles are an important part of the entire experience. “The game’s unnatural obstacles can be solved by means that express both naivety and guilt: memory, pain, and metamorphosis are the means by which the Stranger will advance, though those methods will be embodied in specific tools (a dagger; a noose; a note; etc.) with symbolic significance,” he wrote.
“The riddles and their answers expose the majority of what the player will learn about the Stranger and Strangeland (as well as the underlying sorrow that is the cause for this nightmare). Because the riddles usually have several answers, the player’s progression through the game will not only disclose but also define the Stranger in subtle ways.”
Puzzles contain numerous ways and results, and as I proceeded, I realized that I was occasionally making decisions without even recognizing them. I also learned that actions have consequences, and there were probably a few times in Strangeland when I did what I needed to do but didn’t feel good about it afterward. (Sorry, there will be no spoilers.) Maybe the greater good will be served and it will all come out in the wash—after all, it promises a narrative of identity, loss, self-doubt, and redemption—but I’m not sure that’s in the cards for me right now.
Strangeland is a short experience, with roughly five hours of gameplay on a very small territory, with many options and puzzle solutions leading to numerous endings—much like Primordia. Strangeland is a totally different experience from Primordia, a more conventional (but still fantastic) sci-fi narrative, but if you liked it (or simply appreciate point-and-click adventures in general), Strangeland is well worth your time. It’s now available on Steam and GOG for 10% off the standard $15 price until June 1.