0°N 0°W (opens in new tab) is a game I’ve been holding off writing about, waiting for its colourful, changeable worlds to settle down into a coherent main thought. Actually, and unusually, Colorfiction’s project has remained resolutely fragmented so I’ll pin down some current thoughts about the multi-dimensional exploration experience given it’s now ramping up to a release in the next few months!
I’ve been tinkering with builds of 0°N 0°W since the end of September. It’s a first person surreal exploration game where you wander strange dimensions. The build I have deposits you in a small American desert town at dusk, entices you into a building of almost painfully bright white light and decor, and then leads you out of that world and into curious neon worlds sometimes via doorways sometimes just by walking far enough into the unknown.
The doorway bits are a method of travel which you’re likely familiar with from science fiction shows, adventure movies, stories and more—those portals in incongruous spots marking the falseness or permeability of your current environment. As I wander 0°N 0°W there’s a joy in exploration which is tempered by a growing headache and nausea.
Partly I think that’s just how I feel in walking-heavy games which are produced in a certain way, but I also think that here it’s part of the experience. There’s a claustrophobia in these worlds, and a discomfort in the jagged neons and the disorienting spaces which necessitates a photosensitive seizure warning when you boot it up. I couldn’t swear to it, but it feels important that you can only stomach the game for so long.
The feeling of being sick and headachey enables 0°N 0°W to persist after you play as a low-level discomfort. I’m not saying that games should make you feel sick so you remember them, but in this specific instance there’s a peculiar hangover-like quality which fits with the sensory onslaught the game provides.
As per the game blurb: “A randomized/procedural level progression system that provides a different journey each time you play. All the levels are artistically hand crafted with love, however the manner in which all these levels intertwine changes continuously; giving each player a unique experience.“
Although the idea is that you experience something different each time you play, the more you wander the more the rules governing the game become apparent. It’s a similar sensation you get with any game using procedural elements. The animals in No Man’s Sky, for example—you might not have seen one particular permutation before but you recognise the elements of the toolkit and the ways in which they are combined to form types of creature.
In 0°N 0°W the recombination of familiar elements is useful because it offers a tang of seeing through reality to glimpse the theory of everything. Some spaces or human architectures persist and span dimensions. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but I do find myself drifting back every so often because it never quite settles. I feel vaguely like a ghost with unresolved business.
As a bonus fact, I just looked up 0°N 0°W on a map and apparently it marks a point in the sea around 400 miles south of Ghana’s capital; the coastal city of Accra.
0°N 0°W is currently set for a Q1 2018 release on Steam (opens in new tab) and Itch.io, so by the end of March.