It’s no secret that we at Destination Android really enjoy what EightyEight Games has to offer — we are huge fans of 10000000 and You Must Build a Boat. We managed to get our hands on a preview build of what Luca Redwood is working on next, a game called Photographs set for release in 2018, and so far things are looking very good.
Photographs is a bit of a contrast to the developer’s previous games. While there is some story to each of the games, the stories are by no means obvious to the players. I made up a story in my head that YMBAB is a sequel to 10000000. Where 10000000 ends, YMBAB begins. The character in 10000000 needs to continue adventuring after waking up in a dungeon that he had to fully traverse in order to escape. The previous titles are heavy on gameplay, filled with charm and character, but they aren’t (nor do they need to be) deep on the story front.
In contrast, Photographs is made up of a series of vignettes, each personal and each unique. The stories themselves are a divergence from the previous games — you finish a run in the dungeon in either 10000000 or YMBAB and the game flashes, “You Win!”, which is nice and affirming. It’s not trying to convey something meaningful (other than the player’s own awesomeness, of course). That’s not to say that the previous games weren’t meaningful — they left an impression on me, for sure. But I’m always looking for a mobile game to tell me a substantial story.
In the preview build, I was able to play through one of the vignettes titled: “The Alchemist.” This portion tells the story of an alchemist father, his daughter, and a tragedy. The story is told between each puzzle you play. My favorite part of this new game of EightyEight’s is that they have a voice actor for the narrator of the vignette! This was a huge surprise to me. The previous games had sound effects and music with limited dialogue and no voices. In Photographs, the voice actor for The Alchemist performs perfectly. He sounds exactly like I imagined he would.
When you look at the three games in their published order, it is easy to see that their overall presentation has evolved throughout each iteration. While 10000000 and YMBAB are match-three style dungeon runners, the vignette that I played displayed a well-crafted sliding puzzle game. I can’t speak for the entire game’s puzzles, but this story’s puzzle format really worked. Perhaps if you saw one of the levels in a screenshot, isolated, it might look like any number of mobile puzzle games. But there’s so much more here.
True to its name, Photographs is played within a frame that is reminiscent of a digital camera, and you find each puzzle and its attached story by zooming in with your camera and focusing on the right object in the scene. At the top of the screen, a hint at where to focus is displayed. I found the hints to be rather easy to follow, which saved me from frustration.
The puzzles themselves reinforce the story. The interplay between the story and the Alchemist leading his daughter through to safety in many of the puzzles is emphasized by the need to carefully plan your moves based on specific obstacles to each character. Fortunately, there is a feature where you can rewind your moves when you’ve messed up. You can rewind all the way to the beginning of the puzzle, the last point you moved from, or anywhere in between. That feature doesn’t take away from the challenge of the puzzles — as the story progresses, the puzzles get harder. When one character is suffering from something, their controls invert while the other character’s stays the same.
When “The Alchemist” ended, I wanted to cry. The story grabbed onto my heart and squeezed tightly. I could see my relationship with my own father reflected in this tale: the story of a father who would do anything for his daughter. Who loves her so much. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave you with this:
Play Photographs as soon as it comes out.
We played a Windows preview build of the game — and it feels perfectly-suited for phones, so long as everything works as it should. I should also note that user error led to me playing through the vignette without sound in its entirety the first time, while still being moved to near-tears. I played through it a second time, with sound, and it had even more of an impact. So, it’s got that going for it.