Not all games that I deem worth discussing are long and involved. Sometimes the shortest games leave the longest impression. Such is the case with the two games we’re reviewing today: 9.03M and The Plan. Given how short these games are (only a few minutes to complete) this will be a bit of short post, so if you have any questions or thoughts regarding the game that you would like to chat about, feel free to fill out the handy contact form at the bottom of the post. I recently wrote about disabling comments and I’ve decided perhaps the best compromise is to offer a contact form instead. Note: Contact form has been temporarily disabled to combat spam.
9.03m is an incredibly moving, beautiful game about those who lost their lives in the devastating 2011 Tsunami in Japan. The Steam description explains their motivation for making the game: “The media is quick to put figures to death tolls in such disasters, and 9.03m tries to remind people of the individuals behind those figures.”
It is set on Baker Beach in San Francisco in the wake of the tsunami. Debris has started washing ashore, carrying with it the stories of those who lost their lives. The gameplay is simple–you approach the shadowy figures on the beach who fade away into the belonging which has washed ashore. In looking at the object you learn something about the person it belonged to before it bursts into light and becomes a beautiful silver butterfly.
It feels like not only are you remembering these victims, but setting them free. Although their bodies may never be recovered and put to rest, their belongings will in their stead. From the moment the first butterfly appeared I felt tears begin to well in my eyes. The music that accompanies the freeing of these souls is perhaps the most beautiful I’ve heard in a game, or anywhere really. It accompanies the scene so well that you can’t help feeling touched.
As you continue visiting each item the stories sometimes become a bit harder to bear. I don’t want to spoil it, but there was a moment in which the item in and of itself was sad, but when it erupted into butterflies I absolutely lost it. The tears which I had kept at bay fell, and it only got worse from there. By the end I was crying in earnest and it was the most beautiful experience I have ever had in a game. Period.
9.03m takes only a few minutes to complete. Right when you begin to feel like it’s getting a little repetitive is when it ends in a magnificent explosion of emotion and beauty. It’s $1.99 on Steam, and while it may be short and simple, I cannot suggest it enough. If you want an experience that will touch you, truly touch you, then this is the game you’re looking for. Words cannot describe how emotional the experience is.
The best thing about The Plan is the wide range of emotions it puts you through in the space of just a few minutes. You play as a fly navigating the sometimes dangerous world of a dark yet lovely forest. All you do in terms of gameplay is fly up–forever up–and attempt to avoid environmental hazards as you go. Initially there’s a sense of curiosity–where am I going? What am I doing? When is the purpose of the game going to be revealed and in what way? This quickly changes to panic when you encounter your first hazard which then gives way to relief. You continue your ascent, still wondering what the purpose of the experience is. After a bit you will probably find yourself bored. At this point it’s gotten a bit repetitive, hasn’t it? Don’t give up now because you’re seconds away from the moment where things get interesting.
You may have noticed at this point that the higher you go the smaller you become. Or rather, the further out your view has gotten. Soon you reach the top of the forest, and this is where things get weird. Your boredom gives way to awe, and the curiosity returns. The music swells and becomes this grand, beautiful theme (that reminded me immensely of the Gilneans in World of Warcraft). Now you must know what happens, you must!
And then it happens.
I’ve seen many different responses to the finale of The Plan. Some felt frustration, others regret, and some a deep sense of sadness. Me? I busted up laughing. Only a moment before I had made a prediction (which I still believe the ending was symbolic of) and moments after uttering my prediction the game ended in a most extraordinary way. Relative Sanity, who had been watching me play, sat there, stunned while I burst out laughing. Then he joined in too. And we just sat there and laughed and laughed for a good long while, then discussed why we were laughing.
I’m not sure we interpreted the game in the way it was meant to be interpreted. Perhaps that’s why we found it so funny while others were filled with feelings of despair. Regardless the symbolism works both ways, and that’s brilliant. It was the most delightfully unexpected ending I have encountered, trumping even Bioshock Infinite (because you know what’s going to happen a little before Booker does. Or at least you can assume).
The Plan you can play for free on Steam and I highly encourage you to do so.