Every so often, I come across a game that’s reminiscent of older games I’ve played, but with just enough of a unique twist to stand alone. So it is with Schein, a puzzle-platformer with echoes of Limbo and Braid that creates a new, inventive world. Following the story of a nameless protagonist who has ventured into a swamp to find his lost son, Schein explores themes of perception, despair, and madness with a simple yet effective story and a wide range of puzzles and aesthetics.
Schein begins with our sullen hero travelling alone through a dark, murky swamp. From the narration, it’s clear he’s been searching for his son for some time, lost somewhere in the mire. When a voice urges him to jump from a high cliff, there’s little other options presented. Left with no way back to where he came from, he presses on. Here, he meets the source of the voice – a small, green flame-like spirit that emits a glow that changes the world around it. From here, the two step out into a long journey across the treacherous marshes.
Schein presents an interesting world, with numerous puzzles and platforming segments to weave through. In addition to the spirit’s green light, laterns can be found along the way, shining green, red, or blue light that changes the world it touches. Natural elements, such as butterflies, also shine these colors, creating situations where more than one light may be needed. Green shows a vivid, living world within the swamp, while red light creates a twisted visage full of reds and blacks. Blue light creates a dreamlike world of strange hues and elements. Each light also has an effect on the protagonist’s appearance in accordance with its worldly manifestation.
Puzzles in Schein vary quite a bit. From simple platforming while using your spirit companion’s light to complex placement of multiple laterns of different colors, there’s plenty of thought and skill involved. The only common theme is continuing the search, and unravelling the story as you progress. Along the way, the nameless wanderer converses with his spirit companion, as he asks about strange things they find along the way. The game isn’t without combat of some kind, either, with puzzle-battles against large creatures featuring as a manner of ‘boss fights’ along the way.
Schein excels in a number of ways, with interesting and well-crafted visuals and sound. The story seems to take some time to get moving, and drags in places, but does a good job when it comes up. Zeppelin Studio has put together a great package, with more than enough to be worth the $8.99 asking price on Steam. While a quicker pace or more depth to the plot would have been a positive, I still certainly enjoyed Schein. I’d happily recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the genre, or of visually unique indie titles.