I like games that don’t follow similar paths to others. I like games that turn boxes into triangles. I like adventures that push the boundaries of what is a game, or what is a piece of art. Sometimes these games fail badly, but others succeed massively, changing the face of future gaming adventures. Games like Manifold Garden and Dear Esther might fall into these categories.
Afterglitch is a game that feels like the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its quest to find alien life whilst examining what it is to be human. Does it work? Let’s find out.
You play the role of an astronaut in the third person. You are on a journey through time and space to find an alien civilization or maybe the creator itself. On that journey, you discover secrets about our origins, all as you travel through multi-dimensions and interplanetary space and time. It’s the visual storytelling of Afterglitch which is the foremost power of the game, like you are going through strange trippy animations and drawings.
The developers have been inspired by modern art and 20th-century work in the making of this, and you can certainly tell. The minimal text and voice-overs that appear are philosophical, dripped in meaning, working well with the abstract world you inhabit. It doesn’t feel like a linear experience but more of a circular one that takes you across the world forever.
Afterglitch has an incredibly complicated control system that will take a while to get used to. Sorry, that’s a lie, for everything is simple, with just one mechanic utilised throughout. You just use the right directional stick for everything. This includes moving the astronaut forwards and back, left and right. Later on, in the game, you are flying through space and it’s about trying to direct that little spaceman in the right direction.
There aren’t any directions or ideas about what you need to do in this game. For a while, I just wandered the landscape, before understanding the need to head for a certain object or another floating space person. There is something to be applauded about the lack of direction in the levels and the sense of uneasy exploration needed to complete the game.
On one level you are confronted with a mirror image, or possibly endless images, of the room you are standing in and somehow you need to align the right images together to exit the level. The whole setup and gameplay feels very unusual and I admire the different strategies the game manages to employ with this simple mechanic.
Visually and there’s no doubt about it, Afterglitch is experimental in its design with a strange otherworldliness to the graphics. Infinity landscapes, deep space with planets in the background, and strange spaceships litter the imagery throughout the game. It has a very trippy feel to it and reminds of looking through a kaleidoscope as a child.
The visuals don’t particularly impress in the context of what is possible with the power of Xbox Series X|S, but what is done with the assets is interesting and unique. The sound is very good too, aligned in tone with its experimental visuals. Strange drone noises and crackles add to the storytelling, complemented by an enigmatic voice-over which occasionally appears with words of wisdom.
Afterglitch is not a long game and may well only take you a little over an hour or so to complete. In that time, you’ll pick up a host of easy Xbox achievements and Gamerscore too. However, I think the price is too high, possibly discouraging gamers from taking a risk, mostly because Afterglitch is an experimental piece of gaming with strange mechanics, an obscure narrative, and trippy visual design.
That said, if you’re looking for something different…
Afterglitch is on the Xbox Store
- Unique gaming
- Trippy visuals
- Nice sound
- The price feels too high
- You’ll never really be sure what to do
- Will be too strange for some
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Hangonit Studio
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 9 December 2022
- Launch price from - £12.49