Convergence


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Rating: 4.1/5 (92 votes)
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TrickyConvergenceThe riddle of the sphinx is invoked at the beginning of Convergence, the flixel-based platformer/life simulator/interactive art piece that serves as the debut release from Streetlight Studios: "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?"... No, the answer isn't "William the Performing Dog". It's that miserable pile of secrets itself: man. And you'll be be spending an interesting three days in a life herein. Wake up, fall out of bed, drag a comb across your head and check it out.

Coming off as a bit of a simplified version of Alter Ego, Convergence has you play through a trio of life stages, with the choices you make in each sending you in one direction or another along the way. First is infancy, where you scurry around the house with the [arrow] keys and climb with the [spacebar], trying to collect more toys than your sibling. Then comes adulthood, with its straining choices between work and social life, again moving and making choices with the [arrow] keys and the [spacebar] to confirm. Finally, comes old age, the least interactive part of the game as you move through and see what your choices have wrought, with three major endings to achieve.

There are those out there in casual-gaming land who are of the opinion that pixel graphics are increasingly becoming a crutch for "art" game designers, and that the aesthetic often fails to make up for stiff mechanics or a bathetic tone... Let's just say that Convergence won't exactly be Exhibit A for the defense. That said, there are quite a few things to like. For what it's worth, the increasingly-complex pixelated graphics are quite well done, with the various home environments being particular stand-outs. The dialogue flows well, packing a lot of emotion in very few words, and has some amusing shout-outs (like the Majesty of Flavors ice cream stand). Lastly, the choice of tracks from Creative Commons music-meister Kevin MacLeod shows the developers have good taste, if not neccesarily in-house music talent.

In the final assessment, while I liked each of the individual scenes in Convergence, I'm not quite sure if they successfully mesh into a coherent whole. The tone shifts so quickly from manic platforming, to relationship simulator, to interactive art that you might get whiplash. There are so many ideas here, that some aren't given the room they need to breathe. Despite this, Convergence intrigued me enough to play through enough to see how each of the three stages converge and diverge based on your actions. I found it quite satisfying in that regard, even if the "Multiple Endings Based On Choosing Work or Love" aspect is hokey. Still, even if Convergence comes off as always verge of mawkishness, the pros of it outweigh the cons, gents. I look forward to seeing how the strengths of Streetlight will grow in games to come.

Play Convergence

19 Comments

How do you get past the library puzzle?

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@luk1111, collect all the little pictures in that scene.

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Knock over all the pictures and one of the pictures on the wall will fall over, letting you reach the toy.

If you're having trouble just getting through, just hold the spacebar throughout and you'll automatically climb wherever possible.

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I had so much trouble with the first stage that I gave up. I may try again later--thanks for the tip, Ryusui.

I really do like the pixel aesthetic, but it seems to me like a lot of great game designers started doing it, and then other not-so-great designers picked it up.

I think it's an age thing, too--a lot of designers (and players) remember having emotion conveyed through graphics like these, back when pixels were the ONLY option. And there's an emotional/nostalgic attachment as well. I think that's why you see the pixel aesthetic being used specifically in interactive art games (although obviously it's used in other genres, too).

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Is the name of the ice cream a reference to Gregory Weir's works, I thought he said "Majesty of Flavors".

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Getting all the toys is HARD. On my second playthrough, big brother had only 1 toy and I got the bookshelf one.

How do you get all 10?

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I was a bit underwhelmed by this.

Basically the only thing I actually liked was how the "son" in one of the endings was in higher resolution then everything else. But everything else left me with kind of a "meh" feeling. There's no story here, no statement, no atmosphere, no feelings, no gameplay. Just a bland pixelated "game" about three stages in life and multiple endings based on choices which have the subtlety of a sledgehammer in the face.

Oh, and it's time to lay off the "retro" thing. It was cute for a while, but now it became just a lazy excuse for the developers to get away with crappy graphics AND file their stuff under "art". Sorry guys, that train has passed, time to again start actually making an effort in the graphics deparment... :)

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It's interesting how the different ending all tie in together.

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First tip, as was said, hold the space button. Makes it easiest. The toys are:

1. Go left and into the vent to grab the first one which is on the bed. Your brother is a fast little jerk.

2. Hold right and space to get the one on the table, which is... glaringly obvious.

3. When you get to the stairs, keep right for a bit and climb onto the piano. It'll knock down a present box which you'll need later.

4. Head upstairs. Don't worry, your jerk brother hasn't taken any up here yet; after he locks you in, go right to grab the toy at the very edge of the house.

5. Hold space and left to go over the first vent entrance and grab the toy on top of the air ducts. This is not very safe for a baby.

6. When you're falling, HOLD LEFT. I capitalize this because I just forgot to do it! It'll let you into the little offshoot of air duct to drop you over the laundry and let you at the toy there.

7. Hold space again, as usual, and hit right for the toy on the table.

8. Really, don't ever let go of space ever. It'll let you climb onto the shelves, then the toolbox -- go left onto the first shelf, then right onto the next to ninja the toy there.

9. This next one you /can/ do by being fast, but it's easiest to drop space -- that's right! I'm contradicting my golden rule! -- and sneak under the table, then go up onto it from the right. Shows your jerk brother right.

3 continued!. Since you're there, you can head onto the chair and the present that you knocked down earlier to grab this next toy.

10. The pictures one. There are a couple annoying trust falls, here -- at two points you have to drop down and hit an arrow immediately to fall onto a shelf below and grab a picture. You just need to knock down every picture and the big one on top will fall to create a path.

BAM. Every toy, and also four achievements.

SOMEWHAT IRRELEVANTLY: Was that a mirrormask reference I spied up there? Oh, you.

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I also got a kick out of the "Majesty of Flavors" ice cream stand. XD

And yeah, the individual endings are a bit underwhelming, but it's clever to realize that this is where the game gets its title: the three different paths "converge" in the end, forming one ending from three different perspectives.

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Cool game. I like games that explore the consequences of your decisions. It is a little odd that the "Compromise" ending only really makes sense after seeing the other two, even though it's the easiest ending to find.

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Walkthrough time.

For the first ending, The Middle Path:

Go with your mom.

Do the copying work, and return to your girlfriend afterwards. Do not buy ice cream. I got flowers, the red roses, but you may still get this one without that. Go back to work when they call you.

And that's it! Your brother isn't handling too well, though.


For the second ending, Perfect Love:

Go with your mom.

Skip out on work entirely. Buy your girlfriend's favorite ice cream (Black Raspberry). Get dressed, and buy the lilacs at the flower shop. Stay with your girlfriend when your workmate calls you.

Good job, you and your wife will never forget the time you shared together.

The third ending, Perfect Money.

Stay with your toys.

Proof the papers, and talk to the first guy downstairs. Do not buy ice cream or flowers. I didn't get dressed for this one, but you may still get it if you do. When they call you for work, tell them "51%", and go.

The achievement you get for this one is terrific.

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Sorry, just realised that "Middle Path" ending is actually called "Compromise".

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Anonymous April 25, 2011 7:57 PM

great game, i'll give it a 4.5/5

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Beachykins April 26, 2011 2:21 AM

Does anyone know how you get the Ice Cream and the security clearance achievements?

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Ice Cream:

Get the neapolitan ice cream and don't give it to the kid. I did this in the "achiever" way to play the game, don't know if it also works with the other storylines.

Clearance:

Finish the game the work-focused way, when you get to the airport, don't talk to the ticket-lady but walk on towards the TSA-station.

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I'm sorry, but i'm just so done with the whole 'pixels-artgame' thing.

It's lazy, pretentious and wildly overdone to the point now where it's basically just a costume.

There is nothing about this game that 'pixelart' particularly lends itself to. There is nothing about this game that would not have been improved with actual art.
The use of pixelart, to me, detracted from this game.

I apologize if that sounds shallow of me, but I'm really just sick of it. Games don't need to be ironic in order to be art.

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Chainring April 26, 2011 1:44 PM

@xvbones - I understand your complaint, but I believe pixel-art games have their place. Setting aside any comment on this particular game for a moment... A game designer may have a compelling idea or story to tell, but lack the time/talent/motivation to do a fully-realized development. DaVinci did a lot of pencil sketches as well as the Mona Lisa. Is this a masterpiece? No, but it's difficult to dismiss it at worthless because it's not slick. Saying you don't like pixel-art is a little like saying you don't like hamburgers because filet mignon is so much better or you don't like episodic television because movies are so much better. There is room in the world for both, and I believe more art in the world is better than less even if it means that not all of it aspires to be Michaelangelo's David.

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Amusingly, the first ending I got was the (normal) love ending, and I must admit, that ending made me think about things - a lot. The interesting relationship between both the Love and Money endings, and how they are both centered around Melissa are very amusing and well worth thinking about.

What I did not like was the Compromise ending. It sits out like a sore thumb in comparison to the other endings, and while I understand 'how' it works, it just makes me feel that it breaks up the ideas that the game portrays. Perhaps though, this may be done on purpose...

I just love the emotion and story that is brought by the Love ending, and I don't think that ending Melissa's life was what the player would expect - much less hearing her dying wish and hearing that she wouldn't want life any other way....

And then with the Money ending, we do have exact same scene except someone else became Melissa's lover, and you were in charge of her will. I wonder, at this point, whether the player took this world trip to 'forget' about Melissa's death or to 'escape' from reality....

It should be obvious that the Compromise ending has absolutely no relation to the Love or Money endings - it is merely another life that COULD have been. Melissa is not exactly kicking the bucket here, for all that we can tell. My question, then, is whether this life is better than either the Love or Money endings. Certainly, there is both attachment and pain to all these endings, yet if they knew this alternative lifestyle, would they really be 'happy' as they are in comparison to the ending when Melissa dies?

I don't like deaths personally, so I prefer the Compromise ending on a personal level. But I like the emotional bond that is established in the Love/Money endings, and I suppose, in hindsight, that these two separate endings are necessary in order to make this game deeper than having Melissa die in all 3 major endings. Hm.

As for my stance of the entire art vs game bit, all I'm gonna say is this: yeah, this isn't really a good 'game' if you must call it one. But I'm still glad that someone reviewed it here cause I like reading what other people think about games like these. I also respect this art too - I've been playing a game where I can design icons, but since it has to conform to 16x16 pixels, I know quite well how hard it is to design even pixel graphics (and make it look like 'something').

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