FIELD WORK

by Carl Burton

2020

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fascinating, August 19, 2022

This is a surreal game about a branching train of thought inspired by field research in a rainforest. Everything is sensory. The smell of the forest, the moisture in the air, and the sound of the wildlife are all captured in succinct but vivid detail, which is why this game captured my attention.

You are an unnamed and undescribed (presumably human) protagonist who wanders the forest until you reach as group of researchers with a makeshift ecology lab. The researchers, unbothered by the fact that you are rummaging around in their equipment are studying plants, birds, insects, trees, the ocean, and other parts of the forest. Maybe they are even studying you.

Either way, the gameplay consists of clicking on links that lead to one
When the protagonist observes the scientistsí field work, they ponder the different forms of research that humans have conducted about life and proceeds to bounce between identities. (Spoiler - click to show) First, you are a scientist studying ecology in Biosphere 2, a real-world facility that studies closed ecosystems. Suddenly you are analyzing messages sent by a radio dish to another solar system with instructions on how to reach Earth. Then you are an alien landing on Earth for the first time. These rapid changes are all smoothly implemented so that it forms a blended narrative. Games with this structure run the risk of being tricky to follow but FIELD WORK was streamlined and easy to understand.

The end of the story is a slightly unexpected but interesting outcome. Eventually, (Spoiler - click to show) your mind snaps back to reality. Rather than merely collecting samples to ship off to a lab, the researchers explain that they are actually studying the forest to form a musical composition by using technology that takes microscopic samples and transfer their structure into sound. The game then ends with (Spoiler - click to show) the protagonist listening to the sounds in silent reflection which felt like a thoughtful conclusion.

The visuals are sleek and polished. For most of the game the text body is contained in a white square with rounded corners against a slightly darker white background. It uses black and white text with green links and symbols. The game uses basic visual effects in creative ways. For example, I like how (Spoiler - click to show) the text box darkened so that it was reduced to a white circle that simulated the view of looking through a microscope. The downside is that the box containing the text is incredibly small and is swallowed by the back screen. There are some cases where the black text is somewhat faded and difficult to read against the white screen. In addition, the text size may be hard to read which may discourage some players.

The cover art and title lured me in with the promise of an immersive sci-fi adventure and I am pleased to say that I found a unique Twine game that incorporates current areas of research into a short story. It is surreal but not too intensive or too long. It also has a cool trailer on its itchio page that contains some of the locations mentioned in the game. If you like the themes mentioned in the trailer (or this review) then this game may be of interest.