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Umurangi Generation (PC + Switch)

  • 28-05-2020 12:58pm
    Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,217 CMod ✭✭✭✭

    Have taken my time playing through Umurangi Generation over the past week or so and must say it's one of the most rewarding games I've played through recently.

    The main appeal here is of course that's it's effectively 'Photo Mode: The Game'. Each level is a small but dense self-contained space, populated with people, events and story. Each level tasks you with eight or nine specific photos to take (plus a couple of optional extras), most with a particular lens. One might ask you to use a telephoto lens to photograph a certain word, while another might ask for a wide angle of a distant mountain. The scoring system is very generous (not encompassing the likes of focus), but you have a serious amount of control over the photos - old-school film photos, naturally - you take, from the lenses to the shutter options. Hugely satisfying to just walk around snapping shots, with lots of cool setups and moments to discover. There are lots of high spots and tricky walkways to reach, encouraging you to try different angles.

    There's much more to it than that, though. I wish I could talk about the story more, but this is an exceedingly rare game where I think knowing what's going on early would legitimately undermine the satisfaction of the world-building and the reveals. In general terms, it transpires the game
    exists in a genre you may not have been expecting from the outset
    , gradually building to a point where it becomes abundantly clear what's afoot. Regardless, it's a triumphant of environmental storytelling - a '****ty future' (proper neon cyberpunk, naturally) realised with verve and remarkable clarity despite the limited graphics and lack of any spoken dialogue. Cities are loaded with ads and escapist spaces ('capture a photograph with the word 'gamer' nine times' is my favourite objective in the thing); casual hang-out spaces feel lived in; and landscapes hint at a disaster that unfolded in the past.

    Also a game with much more on its mind than just a plot: the game's lead developer has Maori roots, and there's a clear intention to reflect that in the characters and symbolism that emerge as you work through the levels. Elsewhere, there's the spectre of an ecological catastrophe and a tense government occupation (in this case the UN). There's a great interview with the developer here about this stuff, and also about the title:
    “I chose Umurangi Generation, you know, Red Sky Generation, because the idea was to talk about how our generation is coming of age at the moment having to deal with older generations destroying the earth in-front of us. And we can’t really do anything about it. We can go and protest, sure, but in terms of being the people who actually push the buttons, we’re limited in that space.”

    There's little I can say about the top-tier soundtrack other than it slaps. Hard.

    It's a small game, with clear rough edges. There's a degree of jank, especially when you're double jumping to reach some of those trickier spots. The frame rate in one mid-game level tanked for me (although that I believe has been patched since). A small number of the objectives can be confusing or fidgety to actually photograph. Also - and this is me - the collectible film canisters in some levels are devilishly well hidden, which wouldn't usually bother me but the rewards for getting them (extra tools for your camera) are usually really, really good. Also not a fan of the timer that starts ticking towards a completely optional ten-minute deadline when you boot up a level.

    I could write more, but suffice to say I was seriously impressed with this game, and it's another example of the smart, inventive things been done within the indie space.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 50,979 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    Bought it on release and not played it yet. Looking for the perfect time to try it. Really love photo modes in games so knew this was going to work for me. Thanks for the write up.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,217 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    Out on Switch soon:

    My positive take on the game has only improved since playing the brilliant DLC, which brings a lot of the political ideas and sci-fi themes further to the fore while also further embracing its inner Jet Set Radio and improving its already stellar photography tools.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 50,979 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    Its one of the best games I played last year and possibly my favourite of last year. Definitely implore people to pick up.

  • Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 10,250 Mod ✭✭✭✭Andrew76

    Currently 12 quid on Steam for the base game + dlc, worth a try at that price would you say? Does it have a free roam type mode where you can just wander about taking photos?

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 50,979 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    Definitely worth it at that price. Not sure about the free mode. I'd have to check but imagine it's unlocked after beating a stage.

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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 50,979 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    Just beat this game and the incredible DLC after going back to it. I appreciate it even more after playing it. Such a great premise for a game and excellent use of visual storytelling. The DLC is even better than the main game.