The Infinite Ocean
It's possible you might be familiar with Jonas Kyratzes' philosophical point-and-click, The Infinite Ocean, as it was originally released back in 2003. Not entirely satisfied with the finished product, Kyratzes has revisited the game and re-released this new version with changes to the writing, programming and music.
You'll navigate The Infinite Ocean with the mouse. Click on an object to pick it up, click a door to open it, and move your mouse to the edges of the game window to reveal arrows that allow you to change the direction you face. In addition to (and a departure from) this familiar navigation system, a password control system exists through notes and journals that you find. Click 'scan' in the top right corner to scan the notes for passwords. If present, the scanner will pull it out, but then you must click on it. Sometimes it will be the entire password, other times it's just a fragment. To make password fragments whole, open up the password matching screen in your inventory and match up the fragments.
The Infinite Ocean contains an amazing story that's revealed slowly as you progress. All you know to begin with is that you're in a grey room. Even clicking on an object that does nothing still offers you a glimpse of where you are via masterfully composed descriptions that create more suspense, atmosphere and intrigue than other games in the genre. Being told that a drink is "still warm" while knowing nothing is unsettling, and this unsettling feeling grows even as you learn more and more. It would be wrong to tell you... well, anything about the plot. The mystery that surrounds you when you first start the game is incredible and even simple details such as where the game takes place should be found out on your own.
Analysis: While the particulars of the story, ideas and questions The Infinite Ocean puts forth aren't new territory, the journals you'll find throughout at least broach them in the best way possible. You will get different sides of the story, including one you don't usually hear from (at least not in such a candid way). What is especially nice about the journals is that while they provide the back story you need, you will still have questions that will motivate you to learn even more.
The Infinite Ocean is great as an interactive narrative, but is somewhat lacking as a game. The puzzles aren't very plentiful or difficult. In fact, you'll probably have more trouble finding some of the objects than using them to complete a puzzle. The greys of The Infinite Ocean complement the mood and the themes of the game, but they can make finding a few of the smaller objects more difficult. The biggest problem is the navigation. Although the doors can be told apart by what's on the walls around each one, you may still find yourself going through the wrong door frequently if you aren't careful. Also, passwords are not automatically saved unless you click on them. And while this is a minor annoyance, if you're not careful you can end up leaving it behind, which can cause some confusion.
Gameplay issues aside, the real stars in this game are the story elements. The real puzzles, the important ones, aren't the ones you'll be solving with collected items. The real puzzles are the ones concerning your situation and those that are enlightened within the journal entries. The navigation issues can break up the momentum the game builds, but the frustration comes from the momentary denial of more of the story. You'll get so wrapped up in finding answers that you'll barely notice how few and far between the puzzles are. This is an incredible feat when you consider that the bulk of the game is text.
If you don't enjoy reading or are looking for a more traditional point-and-click adventure, you might be tempted to pass on The Infinite Ocean. However, if you do you'll be doing yourself a disservice. The Infinite Ocean sets up a mystery that persists even after you get some answers. It has a thick layer of philosophy and it invites a lot of discussion regarding both the plot and the issues raised. As mentioned before, it's not new territory, but it is compellingly implemented into a game. Now, go. Explore The Infinite Ocean.