Who knew a side project about the life of a common housefly could stir up the grey matter enough to make one contemplate the meaning and mere existence of their own life? Krillbite Studio’s free-to-play experiment, The Plan, does precisely these things in fewer than five minutes.
In The Plan, players take control of a tiny fly as it hums about exploring a new environment in a way that is, at the very core, both absorbing and child-like. With the removal of action keys, combos, voiceover work and HUD elements, players are forced to simply glide along and rely on their senses of sight and sound as they take in their beautiful, dream-like surroundings. It’s an awe-inspiring world filled with countless parallaxes, each slightly kissed by beams of light, and out of focus just enough to provide an amazing sense of depth and vastness to such a small section of life.
This world, real as it may already feel, is only further brought to life by some of the most impressive sound design and foley artist work injected into such a short experience. From the mesmerizing rustling of leaves and wind chimes to the subtle chirps of birds in the distance, it further adds layers of life and scale to an already lavish microcosm. The Plan’s sound is not solely background environmental in its effect, but a useful in guiding players either in exploration or in avoidance of the dangers one might encounter only as a being of such small size. For those gamers who have splurged on high-end audio headsets, you’ll be ever pleased with your investment as each run through promotes discovery of yet another previously overlooked sound. Wrap it all up with an expertly timed and well-produced Edvard Grieg’s score, “The Death of Aase”, and you have the makings for one of the best audio experiences in independent gaming today.
Krillbite allows for the creation of a captivating ecosystem without spoon-feeding its audience. As players try to make out objects in the background or pinpoint the direction of the wind chime, they mentally establish an entire outside world that was never drawn out in game; essentially an act of world building and immersion brought forth via the perfect delivery of audio and visual narratives.
The game’s only miss, if it may even be considered as such since it is completely separate from the intended gameplay, is the inability to turn the final moment of player input into something profoundly more social (trying not to spoil anything here). It would be interesting to read the responses left by other individuals or be able to share with friends.
Overall, this remarkable experiment serves as both a technology demo and outstanding warning shot for Krillbite’s upcoming first person horror adventure, Among The Sleep, which begs to be played with big headphones and the lights off. It’s an impressive display of design simplicity that opens the doors to reflection and wonder, with an effect that resounds well beyond the time spent playing.
Title: The Plan
Creator: Krillbite Studios
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Game Version: Final / PC
Review Copy: Free Download
Interface: Xbox 360 Controller (Seven), Keyboard (Jacob)
For a game that was essentially a tech demo, has a single mechanics and no real challenge , The Plan left me more than a little confused. It is, clearly, an artsy game, conveying emotion and philosophy in its brief 5 minutes of gameplay. It isn’t artsy in a way that comes off as pretentious, more confusing, and I’m not sure I get The Plan…if there is even something to get.
The game controls perfectly and has wonderful sense of ambiance: You, as a little house fly, hover about, flying left and right as you inevitably try to find your goal. Yet, the only way to go is up, and you’ll instinctively (and without direction) be drawn upwards into the branches, leaves, and wind. There’s a sense that you’re a tiny being in vast open world, exploring with reckless abandoned, despite the fact that the game doesn’t offer much in terms of exploration. This is a testament to the environmental and sound design of The Plan, which is superb at creating atmosphere.
And then, galaxies fade into existence; the light appears, with ever so appropriate swelling orchestral music accompanying it. Then, you realize what you’ve been flying towards this entire time, and the futility of the entire endeavor hits you with a wave of one part humor and one part sadness.
So, what’s the story behind The Plan? What’s the point? Why should you take 5 minutes to play this game?
Ultimately, it comes down to the point where you lose control. Gaming is a unique artistic medium in that it is interactive, and it’s the only artistic medium that can claim that title. So, when a developer takes that away, you ought to pay attention. As the description of the game says, the fly you control is “pondering the pointlessness of its brief existence.” The blank screen that greats you after your inevitable demise is proof of the futility of it all, waiting for you to type some interpretation of this journey, and add something to this five minute journey toward death.
But then again, does The Plan have to mean something? Does it need to be anything more than a pointless prototype with a dash of dark humor and parody of modern art? I think that this may be the power of The Plan; the game makes you question itself. Is it a game? Is it serious? Is there a point? By being so damn ambiguous with 5 minutes of gameplay, a fly and the question of free will, The Plan successfully made me question what games can say about philosophy and life, If a game is making you question such a fundamental philosophical question, then you know that games, as a genre, can provide the answer.
The Plan is well worth 5 minutes of your time, and at the grand old price of “Free”, it’s a cheap admission to be a part of this discussion of games as art, even tangentially. The pointlessness of The Plan is a powerful philosophical statement, forcing you to sit back and think about things so much bigger than a fly….
…and then, once you finish the game, you can figure out how to change the fly into Navi, and joyously drive that god-damn fairly into a bug zapper over and over…