Bits of backlog – Opus: Rocket of Whispers

[Another of my short pieces in the “bits of Backlog” series]

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I’ve sat on writing about this game for a long time, because I couldn’t decide what to write about it.

Opus: Rocket of Whispers is a smartphone game.  Mechanically it’s “search the maze for missing pieces then return before time runs out”.  Imagine Pikmin except post-apocalyptic and no puzzles.

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Gameplay.  It’s a top-down map (that’s you in the very centre in green) where you’ll wander around scavenging for parts and supplies.  That’s the time in the top-right corner, you need to finish each trip before sunset.  There’s no enemies or resource management – you can’t fail, just not progress terribly quickly.

The gameplay isn’t really the point though, it’s the story.  The story is that everyone in the world is dead except for you, a grumpy teenager, and an irritatingly optimistic girl.  Unfortunately for the dead, in this universe death is not the end – your spirit is trapped on earth unless it’s bundled into a rocketship and released into space.  Your job is to try and build a rocketship to give the dead their last rites.  You’re doing this because (1) your female sidekick was a trainee priest, and burial rites was kinda their thing; and (2) you can hear the dead.  And they’re driving you crazy.

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What follows is a series of “explore the ruins for stuff” sequences.  As you find “stuff”, there’s cutscenes and flashbacks that flesh out the two characters, their world and their relationship to each other.  This is undoubtedly the strongest part of the game, as you learn (for example) that the girl is “irritatingly optimistic” because she thinks that is what you need to keep stable.  And the stress of being your emotional support is getting to her.

It’s quite beautiful.  The world and characters are engaging.  But it’s doesn’t go anywhere.  The characters are fleshed out, but they don’t develop.  The story isn’t resolved.  The history isn’t completed.  Why did you two people survive?  Is there a reason for this bizarre scientology-esque afterlife?  What happens after you send the rocket up?

It just isn’t resolved.  And for a game that’s driving force is its story, that’s a pretty big flaw.

There’s a lot to like about this game, it is almost achingly beautiful.  And I don’t mean visually, I mean thematically.  But good stories have resolutions, and this one does not.

So ultimately, not recommended.

Oh – and it’s a pseudo-sequel to “Opus: The Day we Found Earth”, a similar kind of game that looked promising but I didn’t really get into.  I should try it again though.

Release date:              2017
Purchase date:           2018
Complete date:          Approx June 2018
Platform:                     iPhone
Time spent:                 Approx 5 hours
Developer:                   SIGONO
Publisher:                    SIGONO

Recommended for:  People who like beautiful stories.

Not recommended for:  People who like stories that end, people who like challenging gameplay.

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