Review: The Mind’s Eclipse

Review: The Mind’s Eclipse

I’m a sucker for hard sci-fi and interesting visual styles, so it’s really not a great mystery as to why The Mind’s Eclipse captured my attention. After being made aware of the game by Wes Platt, I immediately put it on my watch list, eager to see where the mysterious black & white world lead, and the depth is was going to explore.

Well, The Mind’s Eclipse is now out, and I can safely say that if you are a fan of hard science fiction, the question of immortality and the potential pitfalls of scientific progress, you owe it to yourself to check it out:

 

Title: The Mind’s Eclipse
Developer: Mind’s Eclipse Interactive, LLC
Platform: PC
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by the Developer
Interface: Keyboard & Mouse
Available on itch.io and Steam

The Mind’s Eclipse is a science-fiction visual novel featuring hand-drawn scenes in black and white, and emotional narrative-driven gameplay. Players will uncover the mystery of the Eclipse and its side-narratives by exploring, searching through logs and journals, and piecing together what happened to the CORE whilst searching for Jonathan’s family.

The plot of The Mind’s Eclipse (don’t worry, no spoilers outside of the first few minutes) is superb high-science fiction: there’s a large focus on nanotechnology, human augmentation, futuristic medicinal marvels and the dangers that come with scientific exploration. As the game opens, you’re placed in the role of an amnesiac left behind in a hospital after some kind of disaster, and you’ll have to piece together what has happened and who you are through use of BOSy systems. These are a collection of nannites which are equally at home pulling data from computer terminals and the cybernetically enhanced brains of the recently deceased.

Things get pretty dark, pretty quick in The Mind’s Eclipse. You’ll be running into dead bodies, gruesome crime scenes and evidence of all sort of other horrors, both physical and psychological as you explore. It’s all done very well, particularly because it takes a stance of not showing very much, letting your imagination put together it’s own picture of what’s happened. You’re shown rough outlines of bodies, suggestions of violence and gore, and often left in the dark abut the true nature of things until the game’s final act.

Much of the story evolves around the Eclipse, a sort-of techno-cult you’re introduced to very quickly, and it’s founder Johnathan Campbell. You quickly find out a couple of key bits of information that did a phenomenal job of drawing me in, investing me in the story and driving me to keep moving forward. You’re left to piece much of this together yourself as you progress by reading abandoned data pads and email conversations, though you only really get a complete picture of things as you draw nearer to the Tower, the games looming ominous end-goal.

One of the things that The Mind’s Eclipse does a fantastic job with is the story’s pacing. Often you’re shown a problem, given a context as to why it needs solving and how, then lead backwards to the solution through additional areas, and then back the thing which blocked your progress. All of the hurdles and puzzles were clear, logical and never took so much time that they bogged the story down so things could keep moving at a break neck speed.

Want to learn more about the development process behind The Mind’s Eclipse? Check out our IndieDev Interview with Lead Developer Donald Campbell, where we talk about  the game’s eye-catching aesthetic, the challenges that arise in making an engaging visual novel, and what drew him to start making games as an indie developer.

 

However, the thing that will probably catch people’s attention off the bat is The Mind’s Eclipse’s striking art style, done entirely in black and write with what I’d call a sketched appearance. This style fits the atmosphere of the game incredibly well, equal parts stark and spooky. Even with only two colors, it’s still evocative and rich with details, and the few times color is used, it’s all the more effective for it. The science fiction environments and set pieces are wonderfully weird, not so different that we couldn’t imagine them in our own world, yet alien enough to cause you to feel out of place.

The Mind’s Eclipse does a wonderful job of world building too, giving you snippet about this future world and what lead people to the disaster they are now part of. The game’s narrative makes a ton of sense, with people making very human mistakes and decisions, even if they’re trying to escape their own humanity. Setting up this rich world and it’s history only help to sell these choices and contextualizes them fantastically well.

One thing that surprised me was the game’s music, which is amazing and sets the stage of this philosophical space mystery perfectly. It’s equal parts haunting and calming, much like the abandoned city you wander through, with tons of synth and electro. Along with the art style and world building, the aesthetic created is super strong and I hope to see more of it in future.

Check out our playthrough of an early version of The Mind’s Eclipse we took a look at! While some things have changed, this is a great indication of the style and systems you’ll run into:

 

I’ve only a few criticisms of The Mind’s Eclipse. First, you cannot quickly travel to an area you’ve been before, having instead to open the map, click on an adjacent room, then reopen the map and repeat until you arrive at your destination. This was fine for an initial exploration of the area, but felt somewhat tedious after the fact. Second, L, your AI companion, has a personality that didn’t quite fit for me. It’s addressed and explored later on in the narrative, but particularly in the first act, she felt plucked from another genre and out of place. Finally, I would have loved to have seen a few more alternative approaches to a few of the problems. There were a handful of times you’re presented with a problem that seemed to scream for multiple ways of solving it, but ended up with only a single potential solution. Sure, this isn’t really the goal of a visual novel, so perhaps it’s silly for me to even bring it up, but it would have been icing on an already phenomenal cake.

The Mind’s Eclipse is a phenomenal visual novel that’ll pull you in and quickly ensnares you in its story, full of strange characters and stranger settings. You’ll be confronted with some very heavy and at times disturbing situations surrounding the concepts of morality, immortality and technology, all conveyed spectacularly in striking black and white in a wonderfully realized world rich with history. If you are at all a fan of classic hard science fiction, this should be a “must buy” for your collection.

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Written by
Editor-in-Chief of IndieHangover.com. With a soft spot for epics, sagas and tales of all types, Jacob approaches games as ways to tell stories. He's particularly interested in indie games because of the freedom they have to tell different stories, often in more interesting and innovative ways than Triple A titles.