What is up? What is down? What is left? What is right? What is wrong? It's been hard to tell ever since you woke up in this place. The few peeks you've had outside of these strange colored hallways make you think that you must be a long way from home. If only you could just orient yourself, you're sure you could figure out what's going on... Created by Edd for the 10th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, As I Drift Away is a Unity3D first-person physics-puzzle adventure that cryptically, yet somehow accurately, describes itself as a lesson in escaping mass, mind, memory, and me.
Using the mouse to look around, and the [WASD] keys to move, As I Drift Away drops you in a world of manipulate objects, buttons, perspective, and gravity. Early in the game you will pick up a golden ring which will allow you to change your point of view in an instant. Merely point to a flat surface, then click the mouse, and you'll be attracted to that surface so as to make the walls and ceiling your new floor. New abilities are granted by collecting yellow spheres, such as being able to pick up and drop objects with [E]. Triggering buttons with yourself or an object will open up further areas to explore. Watch out for those lasers though!
Analysis: Eventually, a game will be made in Unity 3D that will make casual gamers world-wide go "Man! I can't believe that this game was made in Unity 3D!" As I Drift Away isn't that game, but it does showcase a number of the engine's unique features in an engaging way. Understandably, if lamentably, a game being in Unity is often deal-breaker for some, and for all it's faults, Adobe Flash is probably not quite ready to be replaced as the premiere internet gaming medium. However, works like As I Drift Away, that construct worlds that would otherwise be impossible to depict in a browser windows, and make a concerted to feel like a game, rather than a tech demo, are the engine's own best arguments. The controls and mechanics start off a little unintuitive, yes, but you'll get used to them as the game progresses and be rewarded with a rich and immersive experience.
Even as three-dimensional graphics become ever more realistic, the simple and iconic nature of As I Drift Away is hard not to like. It really does look and feel like a virtual reality simulator from a mid-90s science museum, and that gives it an undeniable charm. Of course, bouncing off the walls may also give players an undeniable motion sickness, but its heart is in the right place. This kind of setting encapsulates CGDC 10's theme of Escape perfectly: a location that while nonthreatening, still feels disorienting and artificial. It's a place that you don't mind exploring, but are happy to get out of, none-the-less. That sense sums up the appeal of Escape genre rather nicely. Though the game is peppered with philosophical asides (most with tongue firmly planted in cheek), As I Drift Away wants you to figure things out for yourself, both in relations to its puzzles and the game's larger meaning.
In the judging, As I Drift Away had one of the highest scores in the Innovation category (deservedly so), and one of the lowest in the Technical category (probably also deservedly so). However, a smattering of bug-fixes and polish from the author went a long way to improving the game's stability, so even those who played before might want to give it another attempt. Overall, it is a gorgeously mysterious little game, and one you won't want to drift from until you've solved the final puzzle.
Author's Theme interpretation:
"The overall 'objective' of the game is to escape the bizarre maze you find yourself in, using the strange powers you collect a long the way. Yet there is a deeper meaning, symbolic, about escaping life itself and (depending on whether you find your heart) being satisfied. Furthermore, if you reach the end, you discover a surprising and unique aspect to the maze that objectifies the word ESCAPE." -Edd.
Pastel Games' feedback:
"Game! Why don't you let me skip the logos. I played this game 3 times and each time I had to sit through the menu animation. Come on."
"So at the beginning it's quite simple, there's this ability to shift gravity. But as I go along - things turn for the worse. Here's why."
"Everything looks exactly the same. After few chambers I don't know where I'm going anymore. I have a good sense of direction, but here - I'm lost. There's no indication of chambers being done, locations already visited or something like that. The simplest solution would be to add doors that close behind me, so I can't go back to the already solved parts of the game."
"Other abilities - now you've lost me. I pla on a laptop, and there's no mouse wheel, so I'm done with this game after gaining the ability to make cubes stick. Ok, playing on the PC I was able to go further than that."
"Good idea would be to just stick to one arbitrary ability. Like in Portal. You've got your portal gun and that's it. And KNOWING THAT - gives you freedom to try to solve puzzles within that frame of having just the portal gun. So let's say our only ability is to shift gravity. I've seen flash games that do that - and those were great games. This right here with the different abilities is too much in my humble opinion."
"I can save, but when I die it doesn't take me to that savepoint, but to a checkpoint that you created. Ok, but once outside - and again - I'm not sure where I should go or do - when I reach some difficult platform I wan't to save there and when I die be able to start from there, but it takes me all the way back to the beginning of the outside world."
"The puzzle with rotating cube in the middle of the chamber was the place where I almost quit playing. I couldn't get on the cube. But the I solved it and without all those fancy powers, just by careful placing of the companion cubes and changing gravity. I think I solved it, because the game sure as hell didn't inform me whether I did it or not. There was this strange sound, but who knows. And after I solved it - still lost in the maze - I don't know which pathway opened and which I came from. Again - you need to steer the player somehow to the right path, not toss him in the middle of the maze and let him be. I assumed I was moving forward, because I came to the place where I could go outside, but there I was dying almost instantly after trying to see below from the edge of my platform. Which you do when you play fpp games."
"So, dying and respawning somewhere completely else, not knowing where to go, as everything looked the same - this was the place where I quit. The last thing I managed to get was a piece of heart. And that's it."
"This game felt more like a presentation of some engine capabilities, than a real game. Too generic graphics, repetitive and confusing. The unity engine isn't a game on it's own. Just showing us a 3D environment and tossing in a feature isn't going to satisfy a player. You'd need to render that with actual graphics, some that would at least show us our progress."
"I'm not sure about the gameplay. I got lost. The game should teach me ar be easy enough for me to learn the basics by myself."
"However - the initial idea was good - I liked that. there could have been tons of levels based just on gravity shifting. Think in that direction." -Mateusz Skutnik.
"So after many, many attempts the game gets started (that's why I hate Unity!). It was awkward at first, because the game mechanics aren' t intuitive. I thought that it was just a matter of time to get used to but no it was irritating from the beginning to the end and crush the whole fun." -Karol Konwerski.