If you like puzzle games that play with size, scale, and perspective, you should definitely take a look at the new version. Model. If you’re the kind of gamer who enjoys slow-paced, romantic visual novels told in unconventional ways, you should also take Model. And if you’re looking for all of the above, as well as some overly true handwriting that gets to the quickest of your relationships, past or present, and bares all your vulnerabilities and silly mistakes to the world … well, Model is among the best examples in this very specific category of games.
Calling it a “game” is even a little funny, although it is described as a “recursive first person puzzle game in a love story developed by Graceful Decay and published by Annapurna Interactive”. Model is more of a catharsis via highly stylized works of art, a virtual walk through a memory populated with both pleasurable and painful experiences, a hopeful path to healing after ripping off the scabs from old wounds. It is less a game than an experience, I am happy to have undertaken and advise others to do the same. [It’s also available right now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (free for PS+ subscribers), and PC via Steam.]
Here’s the official synopsis:
In Model, which features Hollywood stars Bryce dallas howard and Seth Gabel Voicing the lead roles of Kenzie and Michael, players are invited to navigate their memories as they explore worlds in worlds filled with awe-inspiring architecture. Each chapter of this modern love story features unique interactive puzzles as the player walks through a game filled with breathtaking environments, revealing moments, and an adventure of love, loss and acceptance.
Check out the latest trailer for Model to get a feel for style, scope and scale:
Model starts off innocently enough. The game immerses the player in a first-person perspective in a pretty lavender-shaded garden in the moonlight of San Francisco. There’s not much to do here other than explore, take in your surroundings, and listen to the first of a few specifically chosen songs – about one per chapter or sequence – that are perfect and suited to the mood. The controls are minimal; you are able to move freely and look around at will, aided only by a rather weak jumping skill and the vital ability to interact with and manipulate objects to grab hold of. It is this last game mechanic that literally opens the world (s) of Model as you explore, whether through a turn of the key, building an impromptu bridge, or navigating a shattered world via a crystal ball rooted in memory.
There is a lot of sensory information to take into account as you play Model. (If smell was a thing, I bet the early stages of this experience would be heavenly, above all this county fair environment.) The visuals are striking and unique, impossible to separate from the experience itself and yet the foundation of the game’s framing story which focuses on two young performers falling in love with one another. on the other (played by real-married couple Bryce Dallas Howard and Seth Gabel). You are in their memories, in a sketchbook that documents their history together, as you walk through a living model of their hopes, dreams and imaginations. When everything is clear and shiny, new and whole, it is a wonderful experience. When things start to show cracks, when decay sets in, when buildings and sidewalks are neglected and the sky darkens, well, that’s when the experience gets a bit more heartbreaking and heartbreaking.
And yet the puzzles must be solved if you hope to continue. So as much as I love the style and substance of Model, from happy start to tearful conclusion, it was the brilliant use of the ladder that hooked me long before I got my hands on it. By being able to manipulate certain objects in this world of memory and dream, keys can become bridges (or even ramps, you cheeky developers …), crystals can become keys, and the central world of the model itself can become a kind of transporter halfway around the world, even if it’s only a step or two for your giant.
If you’ve ever felt awe of stories like Gulliver’s travels, movies like Honey, I cut down on the kids, or games like Based, you will feel the same floating in Model From beginning to end. The scale is never breathtaking, at least for me. The solutions, often simple in hindsight but sometimes frustrating in trying to solve a problem, are almost always clever uses of the world itself, the objects in it, and secrets that reveal themselves based on your perspective. The puzzles are satisfying to solve, albeit brought on by somewhat awkward controls from time to time. (And don’t get me started on that jumping skill; luckily the platform requirements are rather tame and are rare.) And once you connect the significant parts of the story with the objects captured and manipulated by memory , the whole thing hits you right in the heart filled with sensations.
Model is that rare title that is more than a game, a singular experience undoubtedly rooted in pain, regret and, hopefully, real-world absolution. It might not be for everyone, but in my opinion the puzzles, the play with perspective, the relationship arc, the art and music and the variety of level design all add up. to form a whole which is much more than just the sum of the individual parts of the game. Model will test your puzzle skills, patience, and maybe even relationships, whether with yourself or with others, but at the end of the way, I hope you find that in worth it.
Rating: B +
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