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October 2023


Platform(s): PC
Genre: Casual
Release Date: March 9, 2023


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PC Review - 'Idea'

by Cody Medellin on May 25, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

In Idea, explore gorgeous landscapes, roll down highways, and stumble upon welcoming cottages and abandoned dumpsters. Help your ideas find their way –- and share them with the world when they stop.

When you hear of a game based on a film, you expect that film to be something that lends itself well to an interactive medium. It should be action-packed or filled with thrilling locales. It can be something that features characters that are at least likable or sends players on an adventure. Idea doesn't immediately seem like something that would fit most of the criteria, but after watching the short film by Olli Huttunen, it fits that adventure category just fine, so a game based on it actually makes some sense. You just have to be prepared for what you're getting.

Presented from the same top-down perspective as the film, Idea doesn't really have a story. It starts with a light bulb encased in a ball tethered to a string. Once the ball is knocked loose, it falls down and uses gravity and physics to take it somewhere. You use a cursor and the pulse wave that you can produce from it, and your job is to nudge the ball until it reaches one of several different ending destinations.

One thing that stands out immediately is the game's presentation. Instead of creating a 3D world, the developers have taken footage from the film's cameras wholesale and added collision where the roads would be. Levels are done up the same way they are in the film, where your ball goes along a shot where the level doesn't move, but there are moving elements present, like bikes and trains and cars going about. The music also happens to be the same track used in the movie, so it really feels like an interactive version of that same film, albeit with some environments that weren't shown there.

There are some limitations to the journey. The first is that you can only stay in one scene for less than 15 seconds, or else the ball pops. You'll reclaim some time when you transition to the next scene, but it isn't always a full bar, so there's some incentive to hustle if you want to get the maximum time for that next scene. While you are encouraged to nudge the ball, you only have three pulses per scene to do so, unless you pick up more along the way. This means you need to employ some strategy when it comes to when that pulse should go out. The journey only lasts a few minutes, as indicated by the timer that shows the entire length of the one song that plays, and there's no way to artificially extend the time to make that journey. Running out of time in either meter doesn't necessarily result in death, as you're given the chance to leave behind a short note for others to discover if their ball happens to run across that point. This also gives you the option to pick one of over 100 icons to use in your notes.

Those limitations help Idea fit the mold of a video game in that there's the challenge of finding new places to explore in a set amount of time. It makes for a short game — but one where the setting remains intriguing. Shot in Finland, there's a good mix of natural habitats mingled with modern conveniences that give the environment a quaint look. Roads lined with trees are just as intriguing as railyards and trash sites because it's all shot from overhead, making the places feel distinct. People are still present, but the dearth of them mdash; along with them simply going about their days as pleasant music plays — gives Idea a relaxing feel. You'll just care about soaking it all in, whether you make it to your destination. It's meditative, a sentiment further enforced by the game's description of this being a more relaxing experience than most offerings.

For anyone who's looking for more than just pretty pictures of a cloudy day in Finland, there's not much here. There are a few bugs that we encountered, like achievement notifications constantly popping up despite having completed them long ago. Although the various endings are in different spots, the cinematic that plays is thematically the same, even if the shots are different. The ideas you pick up can't be viewed until you end your own run. Even then, most of them are people typing random letters; only a few have anything interesting to say that might or might not have been copied and pasted from other sources. While the intention was to have the community really wild with leaving ideas for each other, that hasn't manifested after the game's been released for two months across various platforms, including in the mobile space.

While the simple presentation would seem like a perfect fit for the Steam Deck, the truth is that the platform isn't an ideal way to play Idea. This comes down to the game's instability, as we got a crash by simply transitioning to too many scenes at a time. The crashes were of the hard variety, which meant rebooting the console; that certainly sours players on the experience, even if one run is painfully short. When we got the game running, the battery life was estimated to go for a little over two hours before shutting down. The transitions between scenes were awkward, as the scene transitions were always interrupted by a default screen of a completely different scene before the real one popped in. The good news is that the device's touch-screen was the best scheme to use, as the analog mouse movement felt imprecise and the trackpads weren't up to the task of getting the cursor to the ball on time.

Idea is a game that'll only appeal to a niche audience. Those looking for any sort of exciting adventure or meaningful ending won't find it here, especially since the game's own idea messaging system is filled with random characters instead of something meaningful. The game is a nice distraction, as it can be relaxing to see where the ball ends up if given a little push. It's neat, but don't expect anything profound.

Score: 6.0/10

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