When you say Lynchian, most people know what you mean: Like something out of the mind of David Lynch. Officially the term has been defined as “a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.”
Point is; Football Game is that.
Title: Football Game
Developer: Cloak and Dagger Games (John Inch & Shaun Aitcheson)
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by the Developer
Interface: Keyboard and Mouse
Available on itch.io and Steam for $1.99
Football Game Original Soundtrack by JUPITER-C available via Steam $1.99
East Bend, Purchase County. 1987.
You are Tommy, a local high school football hero in the town of East Bend. It’s game night for the Purchase County Turbines and your sweetheart is waiting in the bleachers. Join Tommy for a night you won’t forget…
Something is amiss…
Football Game is, in a phrase, wonderfully uncanny. Throughout the short playtime, I was continually impressed with just how expertly the game re-framed very small, often mundane moments so that they filled me with unease and discomfort. A sink tap running just a bit too long. An unexpected pause in a mirror. A photo found in an unexpected place. Football Game‘s music, art style and pacing do an incredibly good job of making you feel like something isn’t right…something you can’t put your finger on.
Beyond that, Football Game also does something remarkable: it may be the first point-and-click game I’ve ever played that didn’t feel like it subscribed to point-and-click logic. Sure, the problems you encounter only have one solution, but each solution was framed so well, and orchestrated so smoothly that aside from one moment early in the game that can be chalked up to me being blind, I never felt like I was really just trying different items against every person or place I ran into. There were definitely a few points where I had to scour the environment for the item I needed, but I usually had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for.
I thought for quite some time about how Cloak & Dagger Games achieved this, and I think it comes down to two things: Every solution is grounded in reality and the environment is purposefully surreal. I think many other point and click games flip this: there environments try very hard to be believable and adhere to some sense of logic, while the solutions to the different puzzles are actually quite bizarre and random.
By flipping this standard, making puzzles that are, at times, shockingly straightforward, and placing them in a story that is anything but, the developers have crafted both a superb bit of atmosphere and a game that’s fun to play without being frustrating.
By its very nature, Football Game isn’t going to be for everyone: It’s a point-and-click devoid of the genre’s normal humor, lynchian stories aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea and it’s not really even about football. It is a short game and there’s not a ton of replay value outside of a few hidden achievements and a number of Easter Eggs (including one to Cloak and Dagger’s Legend of Hand, which we reviewed here), but I don’t hold that as a negative against it because what is there is incredibly well paced and constructed.
Football Game is a game that will stick with you. I know that I was pondering the game’s ending for most of the evening after playing it, and that sense of unease stuck with me for a good long while.
Cryptic and creepy, Football Game is exceptionally well crafted and well worth the price tag to anyone with a love of Lynchian stories and Point-and-Click adventures that try to do something a little different.