I’m not sure what this game is about. I know that The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is about the section of Frankenstein wherein the creature is left to their own devices, and is recounting their treatment to the doctor. About the journey of a monster filled with self loathing, cruelty of man, and so forth. But I’m just not sure what this specific game is about.
It is beautiful, rendered in stunning hand painted detail, with lovely flourishes of colour. I guess that’s what nature looks like when you see it for the first time. But I can’t walk through it for the life of me. It was a frustrating experience, seas of white with flecks of colour. It improves, but I never quite felt I knew where I was going. The minigames, too, a little trite. A little too slight, not quite an afterthought, and clearly lovingly made as this entire experience was, but somehow lacking.
What isn’t lacking? That Shelley magic. The spirit of the novel, her beautiful prose and engaging story don’t half come alive in this little game. It is a deftly told narrative, that much is true. The involvement of the player in shaping how the creature evolves is lovely; be a monster or an outcast? Either way — you will be hated. It looks, feels, sounds like Shelley’s prose did. It involves you, and it understands the creature’s plight.
But, interesting to chew on isn’t the same as interesting to play. In its brisk two hour run time, I was either a little bored or a little frustrated. It’s not the most engaging experience beyond oooohing and ahhhhing at the wonderful art and sound. You can affect the ending but… I’m not sure I’d bother. Do you want to be the monster? Or do you want to rise above the cruelty? It’s not the most interesting question in relation to Frankenstein, I think, a book entirely about how the real monster is man, beyond other themes. I almost would have preferred the game to follow the book here, but that would come at the cost of the deepest form of interactivity.
Then again, engendering empathy through play — something you can only do in a game – is used fantastically here. Having the trauma be related through the creature, to Dr Frankenstein, was harrowing. Experiencing it is a whole other kettle of fish — it’s not the bleakest stuff here, but it does sufficiently rope you into the headspace of the creature, and help you further understand their plight. Sticking the ending would have been much better, as opposed to it being mired in the fog of choice and consequence.
I think it’s worth playing, honestly. It is beautiful. It is wonderfully written. Just as an interactive piece of software that you have to engage with, it comes up a bit short in the actual act of play. Lovely to think about, much much much less lovely to actually play.
The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is available on iOS, Nintendo Switch, and PC.