/ Leigh Alexander / 7 am Tue, Mar 10 2015
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  • The Sailor's Dream: a game of beautiful things with unfamiliar traits

    The Sailor's Dream: a game of beautiful things with unfamiliar traits

    This mysterious marine adventure is for those with the sea in their hearts and an iOS device in their hands.

    Simogo's latest iOS release, The Sailor's Dream, is an instantly-nostalgic seafaring folktale. From sound and shanty to touchable, playful marineland secrets, it aims straight at that part of your heart that wants to live on a sandy peninsula, alone and lost to time.

    You don't need to 'play video games' to enjoy it, either. There are certain things I try to recommend to my friends, and then they tell me, 'but I don't really play video games,' and I go, 'that's okay, you don't need to.' The world of The Sailor's Dream just opens up to your touch, and you find things to read and think about and listen to, and that's really it. The game is up for an Excellence in Audio award at this year's Independent Games Festival—just find one of the game's little sea-songs in a bottle and you'll get why.

    sdream1 On the mobile platform, commonly dominated mostly by hooky puzzles and persistent monetization schemes, the sheer variety two-man Swedish studio Simogo produces is welcome and refreshing -- from cute musical car game Bumpy Road to the genuinely-spooky Swedish ghost stories of Year Walk.

    When it comes to The Sailor's Dream, you'd think making a distinctly "nongamey" game would be a boon, opening experiences up for new audiences that don't necessarily have the vocabulary of a multi-button controller and quick reflexes. But subverting expectations and communicating new kinds of experiences is challenging for many modern game developers -- especially when it comes to games without a clear obstacle or win state.

    I asked Simogo's Simon Flesser what he feels people normally expect from games, and about the difficulty in attempting to offer them something else. "I'm not sure exactly what they expect, but I think using the term 'game' comes with a few conceptions," Flesser says. "As does any term, like 'book', or 'movie', I suppose."

    "I think these new types of digital mixed media pieces, like The Sailor's Dream, are hard to describe, because it doesn't really fit in either," he tells me. "If we had called it a 'book' I think we would've faced similar problems, so I'm not sure if it's the word 'game' that is the biggest problem. It's a real tricky one... I think it's always going to be tricky to try and offer anyone something novel, which isn't easily described."

    Flesser says he's happy with how the game turned out and wouldn't change anything: "If you start to base your creativity around response, you'll end up making watered-down products, created to please but never surprise."

    You can check out The Sailor's Dream for yourself on your iOS device. It costs $3.99. Here's a little clue from me: If you think there's nothing more to see, come back the next day.

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