Review: 0°N 0°W

Dude, where’s my car?

0°N 0°W by Colorfiction is a trip to a very special art gallery, found in a far off, deserted town. When you are ready to go home again, you’ve forgotten where you parked your car, so all you have to do now is get back to it — which turns out to be easier said than done, because you have no idea where you are or even where the town you started in is and everything seems so different. You must really have chosen the wrong door on your way out and it doesn’t even slam behind you; it just disappears.
This game is like visiting an art exhibition and you either like what you see or you don’t. Anything else you might experience is completely up to you. There are a lot of worlds to visit, but no explicit story, no endstate, no stated purpose. It’s sort of like a metaphor for life: if you want a purpose, you will have to find it yourself; if you want a story, you will have to tell it yourself; and, when you walk out the door, you never know where you will go next. I should also add right now that if you are in any way sensitive to flickering light, you should probably avoid this game, because there is a lot of flickering going on.
It all started out as a free demo called Dream.Sim, so if you ever played that and got curious (like I did), 0°N 0°W is the game you want to play. It turned out not to be my thing, though, but I will get into that more later. Others will probably love it — for the same reasons I didn’t — because it’s still a well made game. “0°N 0°W” also happens to be the name of a virtual island in meatspace, so the title is well chosen (intentionally or not).

The main mechanic — if there is one — is to find a door in each world, so that you can move on and maybe get closer to where you left your car. The doors seem to take you to a random place, though, so you might be playing this endlessly without ever getting back home (“the journey is the destination…“). You can get the same effect in other ways too, so there isn’t any real challenge here; you just walk around, look at stuff, and then you can leave when you feel ready for something else.

The use of next-level leetspeak is something I have so far seen used only as a joke or as a curiosity, but in this context it was actually kind of brilliant: it’s hard to read and just as busy and straggly as the rest of the game, so it felt like exactly the right choice (as surprising as that may seem).
There are story-like elements here and there in the form of billboards or surveillance that might tell a story if you’re willing to listen (for example in “City 1: Neon” with its theme of consumerism and conformity). The name of each world also helps in telling a story of sorts.
I got to visit a couple of worlds that I liked more than the others, like “Dusk Canyon“, “Desert Sunset[Night]“, and “Small Town“, which is where the game starts. These four weren’t as busy as the others and even pretty relaxing to explore. Other great moments was when I first started the game and was met with a pretty cool menu screen, or when I found an abandoned library or museum out in the desert.
I liked the style of the intro movie, though (I mean, black and white almost always works and the life in the city was effectively and efficiently shown — just like the road trip was). The busy citylife was also an interesting contrast to where we arrived later, although that contrast, if meant, was soon gone. The transition from video to game was great too as we drove into the small town, where things soon go awry, and parked for gas.

There didn’t seem to be anything to hold the game together, something like a narrative, an idea, or a theme (other than the art style, which was pretty consistent throughout). I don’t know if the developer wanted to tell us something with this game — or, if so, what that was. There were sprouts here and there, but nothing that ever sprang into bloom. The game feels surprisingly empty — especially considering how much content there is.
I love exploration, but these endless worlds didn’t inspire me to explore them and the sense of discovery wasn’t there for me. I tried to invent my own rules to make things more interesting, like always finding a door in each world or do a lot of climbing, but the doors were too hard to find and the climbing just felt pointless, because everything looked the same in each world. I think the doors had potential to make the game be more for more people (without sacrificing anything and without too much extra effort) if there had been some method to finding them or getting closer to them (other than searching randomly or exhaustingly). Some method to the madness could have been great in general. None of this matters, though, because I think the point of all this was to show each world as you would a painting in a gallery, and, just like in a gallery, your enjoyment depends on what you think of the art being shown in it, and you usually don’t ask to interact with a painting other than by looking at it.
The art style is generally very busy (with few exceptions), which isn’t my thing: I’m not good at handling visual overload, so I got a headache early on and felt exhausted and stressed out. Things are also either very bright or very colourful — often at the same time — and constantly moving, which wasn’t helping and it made my eyes hurt. An interesting thing to note is that I found the music to be quite soothing — in clash with the visuals — so maybe the visuals are as calm and relaxing for others as they are perhaps meant to be.

I really tried to get into this game — and I did find bits and pieces here and there that I liked and even thought was kind of brilliant, but, in the end, this game wasn’t my thing. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, though; it just means I can’t recommend it from a personal point of view. If you look at any screenshots and like what you see, though, you will probably love it. If you are into free platforming, you might also love it, because there is a lot of that. If you are into trippy things, this is probably very much your thing. Either way, prepare to be bombarded.

Game’s website

Although someone out there is probably fluent in it.