It’s usually been left to smaller, independent developers to take risks and try something new with their games. Whenever something completely original has been released, or something that has strayed from the norm, it has usually come from a smaller studio that hasn’t been concerned about what the mass market has expected of them. While not all of these have been commercially successful, it has allowed developers to give their creativity free reign and it has lead to some truly wonderful titles.
Over the years, it has also lead to us seeing products that would never have seen the light of day if they had not been self-published. Jeff Minter, legendary games programmer and owner of one of the oldest software companies still in existence Llamasoft, released several “light synthesisers” which were little more than interactive light shows for 8-bit and 16-bit systems, other games were even more obscure and even I worked on a project on the Amiga which resulted in the first ever magazine being released on CD for the ill-fated CDTV and its successor, the CD32. We were years ahead of our time, featured video interviews, software, music, game demos and everything else you would expect from a print-based publication… it was just a pity that the market wasn’t ready for it and it disappeared after its pilot issue.
So coming onto Still Life from TACS Games for PlayStation Mobile and this is very much in the same vein. This isn’t so much a game than an interactive audio-visual “experience”. At the root of the experience are three “paintings” that you can interact with by touching various parts of the screen. In the background plays a short musical riff that is different to each picture. As you touch different areas of the screen, parts of the pictures animate or move and a musical note plays in an instrument that matches with the style of background music that is playing. And that’s it. Seriously. There is nothing more to it. There is no objective, no goal to work towards, no challenges, no music to actually “play” with these notes – just a few notes that you can play on top of the relatively bland backing music that plays continuously in the background.
After spending no more than about 5 or 10 seconds on a particular picture, you will have found all of the notes that are there to be discovered, heard all of the sounds you can play, will realise that you can’t play any songs with the notes on offer so the novelty will quickly dissipate and once you’ve repeated this for all three of the pictures (not counting the tree-like selection screen) you will find yourself asking what is the point to what you have just done?
So that’s the actual mechanics of the software (for what it offers, I refuse to even consider classing this as a game) but what about the aesthetics? The pictures themselves are reasonably well drawn albeit in black and white and have tried to present a “painted” look. However, and this may be nit-picking here, but the title is called Still Life so why is one of the three pictures a landscape? Sound wise, the base tracks for the music which is played underneath all of the notes you “discover” was inoffensive but nothing to get particularly excited about and being short in all three cases meant that it became all to easy to grow tired of it. The notes themselves… while they fit with the style of the background music, with so few notes at your disposal it was nigh on impossible to create anything really musical from it.
While I have to applaud Thomas Hopper for trying to release something new and different for PS Mobile, this misses the mark completely. There’s not enough substance to make a game out of this, and there isn’t enough musically for it to be thought of in that way either. Even without any form of on-screen instructions (as I’ve said before, one of Thomas’s weaknesses as a developer) from start to finish I was able to make sense of the software and explore everything that it offered in a matter of minutes.
This really doesn’t offer anything for Vita owners and even at its incredibly low price of 40p, I can’t find any reason to recommend this. For most people, I can barely see anyone going beyond downloading this, running it once and then uninstalling it again. Sadly this is one to be avoided at all costs and ranks as one of the most pointless titles I have seen for PS Mobile so far.
At A Glance
- Title: Still Life
- Publisher: TACS Games
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 8Mb