Monday, 24 July 2017

Iblard Laputa no Kaeru Machi (Playstation)

It's another one of those ~aesthetic~ Playstation games, like previous Lunatic Obscurity entry Kaze no Notam, and while Kaze no Notam was vaguely inspired by the work of artist Hiroshi Nagai, Iblard Laputa no Kaeru Machi is explicity and specifically based on the work of artist Naohisa Inoue, right down to his paintings appearing in some stages as clues.

Besides being an artistic showcase, Iblard is also a first-person adventure game featuring simple puzzles, which are mainly solved by using the right item in the right place. It's actually a lot like a version of Yumemi Mystery Mansion, but set outside and with realtime 3D graphics instead of prerendered FMV fakery, and it is actually from the same developer as both Mystery Mansion games. There are seperate stages, and each one only includes a few items to use and a few items to work with, meaning that all the puzzles are very easy to solve: even if you somehow don't figure them out, it won't take long to get through with trial and error. Another nice thing is that though there's some text and spoken dialogue, there's very little, and you don't need to understand any of it to get anywhere (at least, not in the few stages I've played through).

A quick image search for "Naohisa Inoue" brings up lots of paintings of incredibly idyllic fairyland gardens overflowing with flowers, and those are the environments you'll be exploring in this game. Although there are some minor hazards, they're both easy to avoid and very unlikely to kill you, and they seem to be there simply as some kind of token gesture towards being a traditional videogame. The visuals and music and lack of real threats combine to make a very safe-feeling environment, and everything's very cosy and dreamlike. If you've ever been in either a very verdant garden or a very overgrown bit of forest on a sweltering hot summer afternoon, this game's got a similar feel, to the extent that you can almost feel the pollen going up your nose.  I think the low-poly models and low-resolution textures really help that feeling, and that this would be a very different game were it made at any other time in the advancement of videogame technology.

Iblard Laputa no Kaeru Machi is a game that's completely devoid of excitement, and isn't interesting mechanically, either. However, it is a perfect example of how a game can still be good and worthwhile while not being "good" in any kind of traditional sense. It perfectly creates an atmosphere and the simple puzzles are in there for two reasons: firstly, they give you a reason to fully explore each stage, as solving the puzzles will mean going to each part at least once. Secondly, they create a (very mild) feeling of being a little bit lost in a nice, though strange, place, a feeling which is helped by the fact that the map works like an actual map: there's not movie "you are here" dot, and instead you have to look at certain landmarks on the map and then look for them in the stage to get your bearings. Though it might not be the easiest game to track down, I strongly recommend that you do.


  1. Thanks for reviewing this -- I'll be sure to track it down. I enjoy these "aesthetic" PlayStation games like Kaze no Notam, and it's pleasant to know that this is just about playable without Japanese language skills.

  2. I was so pleased to finally come across some more information on this game - thank you for your write-up!
    Naohisa Inoue is my favourite artist and I had no idea he had made a game until, ironically, I was some months into making my own very non-traditional exploration game. The idea of losing yourself, without the stress of 'feeling lost', in a strange place is my ultimate aim with my game too.

    I hope to play this one day!

    ps my game is called The Collage Atlas for anyone who is curious

    1. i'll look forward to it, and i followed you on tumblr :D