Review: Trauma

Trauma • PC • £4.39 / Free as part of the Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle • Out Now on Steam

This dream is entitled “Avoid the rhino in the underpass”

Those guys at Humble Bundle just love spoiling us, as after the success of their first three bundles, they’ve gone and set another up in the space of a month. I’l be taking a look at the main games in the bundle – it’s the only area of PC gaming I can really look in to what with only having a graphically incompetent laptop with a screen hanging off as my portal – starting today with Trauma.

Trauma is an indie game with an impressive resumé, including three nominations for the 2010 Independent Games Festival, so my hopes were high when I loaded the game up. The basic premise of the story revolves around a woman who was in a car accident, and you play her in four recurring dreams she has while in hospital. 

The “game” itself (I’ll elaborate as to why I’m using real-life air-quotes later) involves you traversing her dreams from her point of view, finding polaroids to give yourself clues and insights and attempting to attain an ending to the dream. The world is photograph based, with barely any ‘graphics’ included, but you move through the photographs like Google Street View on crack, and the transitions are quite good and as it’s real life, it looks good. One of the few bits of graphics involves an interesting swiping mechanism to use at certain points, which would be very at home on a touchscreen but works decently with a mouse too, and crossing over levels to solve puzzles is a neat touch. The premise of wandering through your dreams, too, is a fascinating idea and is woven in with some style.

“Real life” are the graphics of choice

However, as I alluded to earlier, this isn’t really a game, per se. It has the exploration and open-endedness of Myst, but holds a message similar to The Path, in that it challenges your conceptions on how games should be played. And that’s all fine and dandy, but what it doesn’t do is make the game any fun. Sure, it may be an interesting concept, but it’s over in 45 minutes, even for a completionist, and there not much to get out of the game.  

I’m probably not the target audience for this game, as I don’t really go for the games as art mantra – if you are similar, then this probably isn’t for you. This isn’t a criticism about games not being good enough to be art (I’ve seen some particularly pathetic ‘arty’ films, including one of a naked woman running around throwing paint on another naked woman), more on the fact that I think games should be about fun, rather than trying to be arty. If anything, this is an interactive short-story, and I find it very hard to justify the price-tag if you don’t get it with the HIB, even with it being so low anyway.

+ Good concepts
+ Not a bad movement mechanism

– Not much value for money
– No replayability
– Just a bit dull

Verdict: 4/10
There are some nice ideas, but ultimately it fails as a game.

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