Title: I Am Dead
Developer: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: Oct 8, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Hollow Ponds, Richard Hogg
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but the one aspect I love to see in an indie game is the artistic visuals and how well they compliment the gameplay and story that is being told. Through these means, we are given a chance to view things from a different perspective, and in the case of developer Hollow Ponds’ puzzle adventure I Am Dead, we get the chance to take a look at death in a strange new way. It makes for a relaxing journey through a whimsical world, but systems outside of the puzzles themselves left me scratching my head.
In I Am Dead, you begin as a man named Morris Lupton, who has recently passed away. Along with his dog Sparky, you’ll be able to interact with environments and progress the narrative through light puzzles. In the beginning, it’s said that the volcano on the island of Shelmerston is ready to erupt unless you can find a custodian to oversee the volcano. Now, it’s up to Morris to search for a ghost who will take on the job, which entails visiting places they frequent and using living people’s memories called mementos to find them. Each memento will lead to a new clue as to the whereabouts of the ghost, but you’ll need to put in a little leg work if you want to complete this task.
Each person of interest is highlighted and clearly indicated, which made it simple to progress the narrative. The corresponding items they ask you to find are always in that same vicinity as well. This gameloop does not change throughout the 6-hour story, which makes things exceptionally repetitive if you plan on just burning through it in an evening.
I Am Dead is a puzzle game reminiscent of “I Spy” books from my childhood, finding items in the scenery. A large difference is the ability to be able to splice through objects to find these items, which is a benefit of being a ghost. A separate puzzle aspect of the game is collecting cute little blob creatures, known as Grenkins. This requires you to not only splice through objects but to position them in the correct angle.
The art style and charming design that went into the sceneries are the highlights of I Am Dead. As a ghost, looking through objects means attention to details were made, like the random surprises of unexpected items inside a statue or under a random box. There is a vast area to explore in each section so you’re not in a rush to finish the story. Those who take their time will be rewarded with some cute moments of discovery as they search through each object.
The music is pleasantly tranquil and not overbearing, and things like the nature sounds were realistic and soothing. Additionally, having all the text narrated with different voices kept my interest more so than if it wasn’t. The creators took care of the details that even the Grenkins have their own sound and animation.
That being said, I Am Dead is quite linear, and some parts of the game’s pacing are unnecessarily slow. This is only a minor gripe, though, like having to focus the images of a tale told by a character; lining it up doesn’t feel like much of a puzzle rather than something that distracts me from the narration. Another example is how each item found has a little colorful celebration every time one is discovered. The animation is fun but becomes repetitive, and it’s at these moments where I just want it to hurry up so I can find out how the story ends. These moments of distraction had me forget what the point of the story was sometimes and how my actions affected the mission. It ends up coming together by the conclusion, but you may not totally understand how you got there.
I Am Dead takes players on a whimsical journey through a colorful and cute narrative that plays on themes of death and discovery. Each chapter gives us a new piece of the puzzle, making it tough to put the game down, even if the game’s systems become repetitive across long play sessions. You’ll get the most out of this adventure by taking your time, and you’ll be glad you did as you splice through each new object to uncover all the secrets hidden within.
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