Stranded is an indie game that nods towards the retro sci fi movies of the 70s and art games. It tells the story of an astronaut who has crash landed on a planet covered in desert. His fight is one of survival, but instead of focusing on gameplay, this experience is all about story. It begins when the protagonist exits his cryogenic stasis and steps out onto the desert planet to find his ship ruined and his oxygen steadily being depleted.
You may have guessed from the lack of other characters and the setting – a barren desert planet— that there isn’t much dialogue or action going on in Stranded. It’s a mute and sombre experience that may leave you scratching your head as you wonder just what, if anything, you are supposed to do. You don’t build anything, there’s no crafting, there are no enemies, there’s just one course of action: exploration. Go and explore the desert planet. Soon you’ll come across some ominous giant stone heads. But how are they related to the aliens and robot you encounter? We don’t know, because the game never answers the question, but rather hints at possible answers.
In case you somehow haven’t noticed yet; Stranded lacks specifics. There isn’t a clear story, there’s no clear objective, and we’re not entirely certain what the point is.
But you’ve got to ask yourself: does a game really need specific objectives and stories? Can’t a game be more open, more abstract, more artistic than that? Journey certainly was, and it went on to become one of the most unique and interesting games of all time.
Stranded delivers an artistic meditation on the subject of isolation; an artistic and evocative experience that gamers are certain to remember.
In some ways, Stranded captures the heart of Journey. There’s a sense of isolation, mystery and exploration, and you feel free to explore the game on your own terms. Stranded doesn’t quite capture the spiritual and artistic heights of Journey, but it has a darned good crack at it. The end result is a different and new experience, one that will capture your interest for a playthrough and will certainly entertain, but which doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of other more artistic games.
OVERALL: 4 out of 5.
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