I’m feeling lucky.
Title: Google’s Text Adventure
Platform: Windows and Mac via Chrome and Firefox
Developer: Google LLC
Publisher: Google LLC
Release Date: Who knows?
Price: About an hour and a bit of your time
TL;DR: Simple in design but there are hidden depths here
Family Focus: Click here for more information
Not happy as the dominant search engine and having their greedy little fingers in as many pies as they can get, Google has finally made the jump to games that they’ve been threatening to make for such a long time. Sure, they’ve sparred with the idea before, turning interrupted internet connections into dinosaur platforming games and turning their various homepage designs into quirky novelty games.
But the text adventure that was found squirrelled away in the source code of Google demonstrates a significant shift in tone for the games being developed at Google with an unflinching foray into the RPG. And while the game may seem like a text-based jaunt through the Google campus as you try to find your friends, the hard-hitting themes running through the undercurrent of the game demonstrate a source of storytelling that feels like it’s just been tapped.
The game itself is a slick homage to the classic text adventures like Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, presenting you with a rudimentary landscape that you can move through with simple directions like “north.” Instead, the scenery is described to you, creating lush fields of green occupied by Google employees new and old, who are just hanging out. It’s a bit of a gamble, but the ability the game has in making you put the most powerful processing chip – your imagination – to work, means every scene is tailored to your personal taste, with my version of the Google campus taking on a design from Picasso’s cubist period before melting into the iconic Matt Groening style as I entered the Saturn building..
That’s not to say the game is purely text-based. There are moments when the game does the work for you, giving way to stylish hand-drawn designs of near screen-filling enemies or sometimes simple quest items. The majority of these designs are left as black and white to reflect the style of the game, though there are a handful of coloured illustrations, with the vibrant reds, greens, and yellows dotted throughout the game creating a crisp contrast with the surrounding text, leaving you to sit and admire for as long as you like.
You won’t just be moving in simple compass directions though, because the game will have you unlocking new parts of the map through puzzle-solving. The game could have easily taken a misstep into trying to blend mechanics of a Metroidvania with an RPG, but thankfully you won’t have to pick up new skills to trigger these new portions of the map.
Instead, you’ll pick up quest items that you’ll use to, for example, swat a bug to help engineers with their work or trade quinoa for a coffee with a Google executive. You won’t have to worry about your inventory either, with all the items you pick up only good for one use; though, the game does hold your hand a little in this respect. Puzzle-solving does feel a little paint-by-numbers throughout, as the game automatically chooses the correct item for you to use or, if you don’t have the item you need, you’ll just be told that you can’t do anything. It’s clear that the game is walking a tightrope in trying to develop challenging and thought-provoking puzzles while making the game accessible for everyone, though the feeling that the game trusts you to know what the best thing to do is very rare indeed.
But gameplay and environment are mere props for Google’s Text Adventure, with the story that unfolds executing a masterstroke of simplicity while leaving you with a teasing thought that the game has been dealing with something much larger throughout your time playing. Because while it may look like all you’re doing is walking around and finding the rest of the letters to make the word “Google”, it’s more about the identity crisis of the company and the journey it undertakes to make itself whole once again.
It’s sewn into the very nature of your quest, starting off isolated and scared, with only the memory of those now lost fragments of your person to push you on. It’s in the way you reclaim those parts of yourself, encountering the very issues that have played a role in the fractured nature of Google’s place in the world, and every letter you find feels like you’re – not simply putting it back together – but reassembling Google into something new. More than anything else, Google’s Text Adventure plays out like a road trip of the self, as you help the little company that could find its new place in the world. Either that or you’re just finding the letters hidden around the campus to recreate the word “Google”, who’s to say?
Google’s Text Adventure may seem basic, but that simplicity has allowed the company to demonstrate how well it can tell a story without the bells and whistles of HD graphics or quick-time events. It’s not the way I thought the company would have officially entered the video game sphere, but the game shows something that no-one really considered amidst the rumours of Google making a console or making games, that they’ve already got the heart that goes into making a game.
- A simple story that demonstrates a lot of deeper thought going on behind the scenes
- Beautiful hand-crafted illustrations
- Charming puzzles that can be enjoyed by everyone
- The game is guilty of not exploring the emotional aspect more when you find a letter
Google’s Text Adventure is rated in the UK or the US. The game doesn’t have too much to worry about, most children will only see the game as a fun game about finding your friends. The feelings of an existential road trip should hopefully only be noticeable to an older audience of children with a devastatingly high IQ.
Disclaimer: This review is nonsense. The game is real but our comments have been wildly exaggerated because we thought it would be funny.