Arcadia: a Pastoral Tale
In the idyllic moments before sundown, the slant of the sun's rays often sketch a sentimental hue over the landscape. Those moments of gloaming have been scribed in time by many a poet and artist, and Jonas Kyratzes takes it a step further in Arcadia: a Pastoral Tale, an interactive fiction game of exploration set in a dateless pastoral state.
Kyratzes, who also created one of 2011's best, The Book of Living Magic, says Arcadia "is not a race... It is a stroll, an afternoon walk." Keep that in mind as you play. Play, in this case, means reading the text, pondering the circumstances, and choosing your next action by selecting a highlighted word. The path you travel depends on your choices, with multiple options bringing several new discoveries. Because of this, you'll want to play through more than once. As for what the game is "about," since discovery is an integral part of playing Arcadia, let's leave that unsaid for now and talk instead about its merits as a game overall.
Casual gamers realize the general public doesn't give our esteemed game developers enough notice or credit for their creations, that there is sometimes a prejudice against this artistic domain as if its moniker denotes insignificance and immaturity. Without knowing the depth of lyricism and creativity that can compose a game, they'd even mistake the entirely textual Arcadia as not a game. What defines a game is as varied as what defines a sport. Games are distinct from work; they're entertainment, an amusing pastime, and involve the player at some level. Good games are more than that—they resonant with their players at an innate level, tapping our logic or reflex or dexterity in pursuit of a goal or a win. Arcadia does all of this by providing choices then rewarding our decisions lavishly with rich prose.
Absent is the possibility of losing, but winning or losing are only a means of providing resolution at the end of a game. It is here that Arcadia excels the most because Arcadia's denouement is naturally beautiful, surreal and meaningful; it is as if Thomas Cole is the player's muse, that this isn't a narrative simply told to you, it is an archetypal romanticism in which you're enveloped; you play for the experience, for the discovery, and for the escape. Arcadia: a Pastoral Tale elevates the oft undervalued browser game onto the loftier plane of artistic poignancy.