DigiPen is a create arts college that teaches it’s students how to create videogames. With degree programs in game design, animation, programming and various other disciplines, the students are able to focus on how to create a well thought out and well executed game. That type of teaching along with the original games coming from its students is getting me excited about what we will be seeing as mainstream releases over the next 10 years.
Void chose to use the Source Engine as it’s backing and that is both a good and bad choice. Since the engine is over 10 years old by this point, the physics are dated, walk through events are obvious, models are low poly and textures are very pixelated by today’s standards. However you can’t get a more reliable and well documented engine, which makes the choice a solid one, even if a little uninspired. The positive point here is that the graphics really aren’t what Void is about and it is something that most people will be able to get over without much concern.
The real highlight with Void is it’s imaginative puzzles that use the game’s time warp mechanic beautifully. You traverse a crumbling building looking for a way out after waking up in a haze and encounter a few puzzles along the way the require you to open up a warp to when the building wasn’t a heap in order to make it to the next section. This time warp is controlled with your glove that allows you to aim and shoot a bubble that brings the past into the present. You are also given a pair of broken glasses that you can hold up to see what the warp will bring back, which is very useful for combing the environment for the collectible paintings. The game claims there are 16, but I was only able to find like 6 and I purposefully took the time to look for them. While most were fairly obvious, 2 specifically provided some challenge with the environment crumbling beneath your feet in order to rush the pace. That excitement truly made those puzzles a highlight of the game.
The story really isn’t present and is only slightly hinted at, but again this is more of a tech demo of sorts than a full release, so that is to be expected. The disappointing part about that is that you feel there is so much more right under the surface that you would like to experience. What is there is definitely a little cliche to a point as you wake up in a location you don’t seem to remember and need to get out. It doesn’t detract from the game, but if Void is expanded, it would need to be careful of falling into being bland and a blatant ripoff of any number of stories.
While I would have loved to see the game get a little better treatment, I kept having to remind myself after playing that it was designed by a bunch of College kids as their graduation project and it wasn’t really developed with a formal release in mind. The key words were “after playing”, because during the game it really sucked me in and it’s something I could see being a truly legit release if they took the time to do it.
Overall, the experience is only about a half hour of your time, but it is a free download from the DigiPen website. Void is a cute, clever game that is well executed for a small group of College kids and it would be interesting to see a fully funded fleshed out version created with improved visuals, a rich story and more challenging puzzles. Void is definitely worth picking up since it’s free and quite a good way to kill a little time. Hopefully enough people download it to force these kids to develop a full standalone release.
[+ Great game mechanics] [+ Clever puzzles] [- Short experience] [- Dated looking and feeling]