best before 18.01.2024

by Hartigan Malchop

Keep Moving,
‘Far: Lone Sails’

You know me, friends. Hartigan Malchop here would much rather do any darn thing than whatever piece of work he’s supposed to get down to. Well, the other day I was doing just that – tryin’ not to work, an’ I was instead choosin’ to spend my time scrolling through page after page of games. When you git into the rhythm of letting all them titles glide on by, I was thinkin’ how it must be hard to name video games these days. There are so many of the darn things out there already.

Normally I take the time to remove all the colour from Mr. Malchop’s images, but the ones for this game were already around ninety-percent greyscale.

Now, I couldn’t tell you folks why, but after maybe page fifty-three pages or so of watchin’ games go by, I stopped and decided to have a closer look at one lil’ game that caught my eye. This game was called ‘Far: Lone Sails’. I guess you couldn’t just call it ‘Far’, even if it’s a more elegant and portentous name. There are probably hundreds of games already called that, and if you did call it just ‘Far’, how the heck would you even search for a game like that? How would you find it? It was only a series of chances that meant I came across this name anyway, this small and lost game deep in the endless pages out there. If I had scrolled past, if I hadn’t checked the few reviews and been told by good-hearted strangers to stop an’ have a look at this little game, I would never have played ‘Far’. That sure would have been a terrible shame, because in the few short hours of this here unassuming small game, there’s something simple but movin’.

There are three sails there. Not a lone sail.

‘Far: Lone Sails’ is basically a game about moving from the left of the landscape to the right. Most of us probably don’t even think about it much anymore, but movin’ on to the right is a fundamental part of the history of video games. We find it strong and startlin’ in the classic Super Mario, where findin’ ways of going right was the whole driving force of the game, and in the ways you would go about movin’ – jumping, running, avoiding dangers, stomping on monster heads, all to git you to your goal out of sight there on the right side of the screen. Movin’ right was kind of the whole game, a whole voyage simplified down to a 2d plane.

Like all mobile homes, this one gives you the freedom to park awkwardly so nobody can get past.

In ‘Far’, you move right across a world smashed and emptied by disasters. You come across collapsed houses, derelict factories, and signs advertisin’ a vanished world. As you travel on, you’ll be caught up in some of the natural disasters that may have made this here land desolate. And because you are so small an’ the distances you need to cover are so great, you need something to transport you across the land, ever heading right. What you got in this game is a kind of land boat, a mobile home that you have to operate by pushin’ big buttons. You are gonna need to find ways to fuel and propel your lumberin’ landboat, an’ soon this simple, atmospheric game becomes about maintainin’ your vessel any which way, just so you can keep it on track, so you can keep goin’ onwards.

There ain’t no signs of a single other human being in ‘Far’, an’ as I played through, I started yearnin’ to see at least traces of people. All you got to keep you company is your landboat. At one point, I came across an automated radio station and found me a little radio that you could carry back to your boat. When I accidentally left this small burblin’ radio behind and could no longer go back to get it, I was a little heartbroken. I was desperate to hear the echo of something alive to brighten up my travellin’ home, my only companion. ‘Far’ is sure good at loneliness, at gettin’ it to creep up on you as you constantly move right.

This abandoned wasteland reminds me very much of past family holidays.

An’ then you come smack up against somethin’ that stops your boat dead. You got to get fuel to keep the boat alive, or find a way to fix what’s broke, or open up a path so you can keep at it. Sometimes you even find additions and upgrades, the sort of thing games hand out to give you a feelin’ of achievement, a sense of progress. One time, you even get some tattered sails to power your landboat when the wind is blowin’ right. You start thinkin’ that this will be the game, that as you keep goin’ you will find bigger and better upgrades for your boat, so that crossin’ the quiet, sad, moody world will be smoother sailin’. But this ain’t how the game goes. Your ship, your precious landboat, your home, your means of movin’ forwards, your instrument for findin’ meaning at the end of the world, it breaks down. This here ain’t a power fantasy. Your boat catches fire, it stops workin’, it gets knocked about by the apocalyptic weather, an’ in time you start worryin’ more and more about this boat, this inanimate space, you start caring about it, because it’s all you have in the world. It’s the only thing that keeps you goin’, that keeps you movin’ ever onwards, ever towards the right.

Good luck, brave campervan, driving through the night.

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