I used to have a recurring dream when I was younger. I’d find myself stood alone in the road outside my house, the sky above me filled with black clouds; the kind that make it feel like dusk at midday. Then a torrential downpour would start. Of eyeballs. Not someone to idly take a pelting with disembodied eyes, I’d run for shelter in the front porch. But on opening the door I’d find the porch full, floor to ceiling, of sponge cake. And then I’d wake up.
Zed features a merciful lack of eye based rain in the preview from its successful Kickstarter campaign. The upcoming first person puzzler from Eagre Games sees you travelling through the dreamscapes of the dying Dreamer, trying to help him leave a lasting legacy for his granddaughter. But his fading mind and confusion at your presence are creating obstacles. So to progress you’ll have to solve puzzles based on clues in the environment, as well as gather memories.
While there is one simple puzzle in the preview, the real focus is the intended visual style of the game. The world appears to be built from scrap: you travel exclusively on walkways with bent pipes for railings; tall buildings surround you, seemingly made from cardboard and peppered with crooked windows and industrial pipes; while enormous spiked blocks hang mid air in the distance, gently rotating. Various landmarks dot the small area too; in particular a grinning metallic sun hovers above the walkway, also gently rotating. Below it, the walkway wraps around a more realistic sun; solar flares dance across the surface and I found myself just standing and watching it. Weirdly, it reminds me a lot of the craft projects they used to make on Bitsa, which will really carbon date me.
If anything you see instead reminds you of Myst, there’s an excellent reason for that. Eagre Games was founded by Chuck Carter, one of the artists involved with the original Myst. If it reminds you of Bitsa, get in touch and we can reminisce about how terrifying Hands was.
Getting back to Zed, something I particularly liked was the way it rewarded solving the puzzle. When the game begins, world is sepia toned and punctuated with slightly melancholy music. As soon as the puzzle is solved, colour returns to the world and the music becomes much brighter. It’s a really satisfying way of being told that something that was broken has been fixed, without it being spelled out explicitly, and I really hope Eagre continue to play with that kind of reward in the full game.
Things weren’t totally a dream though (you’re welcome). At one point your progress is halted by a gap in the walkway; to plug that gap you’re required to collect one of the memories nearby and return to the gap. Unfortunately, it wasn’t particularly clear that returning would trigger this, and I got the feeling it would have been easy to become stuck. But, again, this is a visual preview, so hopefully feedback will be a little kinder in the full game.
Although it’s early days, I enjoyed getting a feel for what Eagre Games are aiming for with the world of Zed. I’m looking forward to seeing how the game progresses, especially the puzzles (it’s the meat of a game like this, after all). Maybe there’ll even be a porch full of cake.