I don’t take my PlayStation 3 online very often, but when I do, I tend to check the PlayStation Store Web site first to see what, if anything, is new or worth downloading. That’s where I saw the image for Linger in Shadows in the Game of the Week box, followed by a description that kicks off by insisting that it’s not actually a game. Intriguing.
There are games that aspire to art in their cinematic themes or atmosphere, and games that simply emphasize aesthetic design, but Linger in Shadows may be the first title I’ve seen billed as a purely artistic experience. I’m a little late to the party, since it’s been available for nearly two months, but I had to try it, and I’m glad I did.
The download blurb identifies Linger first as “interactive digital art,” and then as a “demoscene.” The developers, a group from Poland called Plastic, provide in-game text with a helpful definition and history of the demoscene for the benefit of people like myself who’ve never heard the term; I’ll summarize it here as “tech demo as art.” Originally meant to show off hardware’s processing and graphical power, these pieces grew into showcases for programmers’ skills and style, and function as artistic expression in their own right.
So, how does an underground art culture manifest itself on the PlayStation 3? Linger in Shadows is, at its core, a video, about seven minutes long and divided into 6 scenes. It’s rendered beautifully in a sort of digital impressionist style, and has a gorgeous instrumental soundtrack to match the visuals (and the main theme is available as a separate, free download).
The interactive element is twofold. Firstly, you can manipulate playback in the usual media player ways, including variable speed rewind and fast-forward — handy if you want to single out a specific frame. Added to these controls are the abilities to change the viewing angle via motion control and to take screenshots, which find their way into your PS3’s photo folder and can be, for example, set as your system’s wallpaper.
The second element is more significant. You can manipulate not just the playback, but also certain items within the scene. This on its own wouldn’t be spectacular, but Plastic shows a little more gaming savvy than the blurbs seem to admit, because each scene must be manipulated in some way to unlock the next. As such things go, these tasks aren’t all that difficult, but allowing the player to discover the puzzle, its rules, and its solution without so much as a word of guidance is a technique familiar from the best adventure games, and I happen to think it’s one of the most engaging, even as abbreviated as it is in Linger.
Depending on how much fiddling about you choose to do, it might not take you much longer than the video’s running time to complete. However, the end of the video isn’t the end of the experience, and quitting after plowing through to the end would be cheating yourself. Linger is aptly named, as there’s much enjoyment to be had by creeping through each scene and discovering what you can touch, distort, and reveal. I’ve only played it through a handful of times, and while I occasionally find a new object to manipulate, there are certainly more secrets to be found, as the ten remaining unclaimed trophies would seem to indicate.
The story, insofar as there is one, depends almost entirely on the viewer’s interpretation. The people most likely to enjoy the artistic aspect of Linger in Shadows will be the ones who can happily lose time dwelling on the bizarre characters, their actions, and the images that surround them. I couldn’t tell you if there’s any specific meaning behind the imagery, but there doesn’t need to be. To me, the point is simply to stimulate the imagination, and to that end, the title is a rousing success.
So no, Linger in Shadows isn’t a game, but it is a creative, rewarding, well-crafted and beautiful way to lose yourself for a while. At $2.99, it’s easily worth rewarding Plastic for their creation, and even Sony for providing access to something so far off the beaten path. I, for one, would be glad to see many more titles in a similar vein.
Linger in Shadows is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Fantasy Violence.