Ah, another perfect day. Sitting on a cliff. Letting the breeze blow through your bright pink hair. Then you hear the distant rumble of some kind of black hellspawn chasing your boyfriend. Well, just put out your hand and fly away with him in [Together], One Mr. Beans's entry in our 8th Casual Gameplay Design Competition that took third place overall. Explore up to the farthest reaches of space and down to the abyss in search of hearts. Gotta catch 'em all! And, y'know, not get eaten. That's important too.
To accomplish these two goals (get hearts, don't be food), you'll be using your trusty cursor. The boy and girl will chase the cursor. The closer the cursor is to the edge of the game window, the faster they fly. Obviously, when you sight the vapor trail of a heart, you're going to want to fly as fast as you can after it. There are many layers to the world, each with its own kind of heart. Hold the [spacebar] to check which hearts you've got and how many you have left to catch. But don't get too relaxed, because there's that aforementioned smoke creature after you. When he's cramping your style, simply swirl your cursor in a circle around your couple, causing them to spin in a tight circle. Apparently terrors of shadow can't stand tight circles. Add that to your notes; that's the kind of thing that might come in handy someday.
Analysis: When it was first uploaded to the competition, many players complained that the hearts were too hard to catch and that the beast wasn't scared off long enough by spinning. Don't lose hope! If you're just patient, the hearts will slow down, so if you're getting frustrated by a heart, sail around for a while exploring and when you try again, the heart should be easier. This is the kind of game that's supposed to be about freedom, about exploring the heights and the depths with no limits, not about tossing your mouse across the room because once again a heart wiggled out of your reach. If you tried the game and quit because of the difficulty, please give it another chance with a more patient outlook.
So where's the sandbox theme in a game about the big blue sky and the deepest ocean? A totally non-linear experience, in [Together] you can gather any heart in any order. In addition, the entire "map", so to speak, is open to you at once. If you want to go from the lowest level to the highest, twirl it on up. The reverse? Get down with your blue and pink colored selves. Despite the ever-present threat of the ashen monstrosity, the mood of the game, with its pastels and soothing music, is thoroughly relaxing. If there were a few more things to see in the game world, this would be the kind of game you could bliss out to and lose track of time. As it is, the emptiness means that after only a few minutes, you'll have seen everything there is to see and your only goal will be collecting the hearts.
Some players will find the ending of the game unhappy or an anticlimax. Others will adore it. There's as many possible interpretations as will fit in infinity's midpoint. Several good ones have already been advanced on the competition page. Why not play through the game and amaze us with your definitive answer?
AdamC - [Together] is a moving little piece of art that combines a frantic chase with open-world exploration. The game smartly presents itself (at first) as an experience without a goal, encouraging you to soar through the heights of the stratosphere, plummet to the deepest depths, and even meet infinity halfway. Only a small set of instructions warn you of the relentless smoke monster, which pushes you to always keep moving. While others found some gameplay mechanics frustrating, with good reason, I felt the challenge was worth the experience. Any easier and the message of love, pursuit, and loss may have been cheapened. [Together]'s ending may leave some a bit cold, and its interpretation of the competition theme may have been a little loose, but the amount of care obviously put into its creation along with its crisp polish kept me hooked right on through. [Together] is a wonderfully sad little game that completely deserves its high ranking place in our latest competition.