Published on March 11th, 2013 | by Andy Astruc1
Money Shots: Pulse
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I play games for new and exciting experiences. Leaping from the tops of 16th century cathedrals, shooting endangered tigers through the eye with arrows, slaying the demonic armies of modern day conservative political groups and becoming the commander of a secret alien-fighting organisation are all things I have no chance of doing outside of the digital arena. And it’s quite unlikely I’ll want to play a game about watching daytime television, buying groceries and cleaning baby food off the carpet. Games allow us to explore parts of the world — both literal and metaphorical — which we would otherwise have no access to.
That said, most games do have a rather pronounced lean towards the dynamic and empowering aspects of the world: shooting big guns, running from explosions, that sort of hoopla. It’s interesting, then, when a game comes along that wants to show us the world from the perspective of someone less powerful than ourselves. This is the essence of Pulse, a first person game where the person in question is blind.
Team Pixel Pi is made up of five designers that all met in the Vancouver Film School Game Design Program and decided to form a Scooby squad. They created the prototype of Pulse as their major project, and they’re now looking to transform it into a fully-fledged product. In their own words:
“Pulse is a first-person experiential journey in which you are blind. Using a process similar to echolocation, you use sounds in the environment to create a mental reconstruction of the world around you. The character has not been blind since birth, and is therefore able to pull memories from their childhood to “see” the environment.”
A lot of thought has clearly gone into what could easily have been little more than a gimmicky concept. Footage shows the player’s footsteps revealing small parts of the environment, and environmental influences — like a bird flying past — will temporarily light up a trail, so to speak. Little creatures called Mokos will also help the character by providing their own sounds. The team have also taken pains to highlight the fact that what you see in the game might have little to no relation to what is really out there, as you’re merely filling in the mental blanks.
The visual style of the game is refreshingly vibrant and cartoonish as well, which means you’ll be looking at much more amazing things than a wireframe outline of Jennifer Garner’s face in a rainstorm.
Team Pixel Pi have put in place three pillars of gameplay experience for Pulse to live by: challenge, discovery and sensation. Thankfully their idea of challenge seems to be defined by a worthwhile and hard-fought journey, rather than a simple difficulty level. Discovery and sensation go hand in hand, and just the idea of being dropped in such an unfamiliar environment and situation has me itching to play. There are shades of the eager voids of The Unfinished Swan in such an idea, and, much like that game, Pulse seems set to feed off the dichotomy of fear and curiousity that comes with the unknown. Terrible beasts and other dangers roam the environments, made more horrible by not just the character’s imagination, but your own.
I’ve played a good part of the prototype (which you can find here) and Pulse instills a sense of wonder and excitement often lacking in larger projects. I don’t think I’ve ever been so apprehensive about going down a corridor, yet so motivated by exploration to do so. The designers are looking for $75,000 to light the darkness, and at this early stage have already secured over ten thousand. Provided they stick to their self-imposed design edicts, Pulse could be a worthy addition to the modern crop of meaningful, thought-provoking games.
Also you get to throw cute, fluffy things at walls, which must be worth a bit of investment.