The Search by Jason Godbey is a classic point and click¹, in which you will paint your way past obstacles in search of your innermost, creative core, all whilst getting the story narrated to you via various notes, which you’ll find along the way, as well as comments from the main character. I really liked this game: the tone; the philosophical, introspective theme; the relaxed atmosphere, and the art style made it entirely my thing.
The main mechanic consists of finding three items for each scene: a paint brush, a canvas, and paint. These three items allow you to paint a way out. You will also find other items which will help you. The HUD is clear and to the point, and there to help you, not hinder you. The puzzles are all inventory based. There is also a clue system, which you can toggle on and off at the beginning, but also via the settings while playing. I turned it off and found the game to be pretty clear about what needs to be done if you take the time to explore every scene, but if you want to just follow the story, the clue system is there to help. Free 3D movement would have been nice, but at the same time it’s great how the use of a fixed 2D view actually adds to the story.
The story is about finding your own path in life, especially a path of creativity and true self expression, while navigating the many pitfalls in life and all the false imagery it may offer. Jung and Campbell are also there to keep you company².
The painting mechanic was refreshing and well made. I have seen it before, although only in other media, so it still felt like a new way of progressing in a game. Almost every scene is like looking at a beautiful painting (both in motif and in how the textures look hand-painted and make the scene come alive). Great use of colour: inviting, warm, clear — without being oversaturated or harsh — and there’s this pleasantly “muddy” quality, making what you see easy to rest your eyes on. The surroundings are well put together, with a lot of extra detail, and everything seems to hold a story of its own.
The story — as well as the game as a whole — felt especially dear to me (as someone with their own creative aspirations). The narrator (delicately voiced by Cissy Jones), whom I also play as, reminded me, for some reason, of the one in The Old City (by PostMod Softworks), but, to be honest, in hindsight I don’t know exactly why, because the two seem to have very different outlooks on life. They are both nice to listen to, though, so that’s one similarity. Another might be that they both present ideas about introspection, although with a huge difference in vocabulary: the writing style in The Search is much more direct and easier to follow.
The game took me only around an hour to play through to the end, so it is a bit short. There’s clear potential here to elaborate more on the ideas presented, both in writing and in gameplay. Already used mechanics could have been used more (like for example the mixing of colours or painting in general) and there seems to be room for more areas (for example the idea of “walking where there’s no path” could have been made into a real thing (and/or the “walking where there’s no footprints”), since that is suggested as a thing we ought to do). The game’s shortness might also be its strength, though, because lengthening a game is always done at the risk of diluting or milking it.
This is a game I thoroughly enjoyed, but could also definitely have played more of. It’s short, but sweet.
A few minor suggestions for the developer:
The descriptive text in the inventory goes off screen if the last item is all the way to the right (happened for me with the white paint bucket), and there’s a bit of off-looking, intruding darkness in the berries location when looking back towards the entrance. These minor glitches were only cosmetic and none of them ever hindered me in any way.
Mouse sensitivity was too high for me and there was no way to adjust it (noticable especially towards the end). I could easily lower it externally, but it’s always nice to be able to do it in-game.
Credits also being accessible from the menu screen would be nice, so the player can check them without having to finish the game again.
¹You see the world as if you’re in it (first person view), and the world is 3D, but there’s no freedom in movement and you move from one predetermined spot to another. In each spot you can look around by clicking on the edges of your view. Sometimes you can zoom in and read notes or pick up objects for later use.
²Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961), the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst (among other things), who specialized in analytical psychology and also did research in many other fields; and Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), an American mythologist and philosopher.