If you haven’t heard, itch.io is a marketplace for indie games, and even includes a plethora of free titles. Many games there are demos, proof-of-concepts, or just silly one-offs. However, many of them also go unnoticed to the public eye. These games are usually name-your-own-price: if you enjoy them please consider supporting the developer.Before I launch into this, go play Orchids to Dusk by Pol Clarissou. It’s a quick game, don’t worry. Don’t read the info and blurbs on the page. Go in blind.
Done? Good. I’m going to spoil it, because you’re all liars who didn’t play.
You begin Orchids to Dusk by crash landing on a near-barren landscape. Your only hope for survival is to walk and explore the planet before you, with an ever-depleting tank of oxygen. Inevitably, you’ll pass by a few landmarks: clusters of flower-things, an awkward tree, and even some rocks. Tiny oases. Yet none of them is your oasis—not what you’re looking for. You want life, something to live for.
And so you walk on, alone and inquisitive. There’s gotta be more. The other shoe has yet to drop! So far, it’s just…walking. What’s the point? What’s the end goal? What are you supposed to be doing? When will the big reveal happen: the one that changes everything?
You’ve been walking a while—your oxygen tank is on 5%. It’s almost over. Maybe that‘s when things get good. Maybe it doesn’t really end? Yet your body is shaking now, it seems to be giving out. Perhaps that nearby oasis doesn’t sound half bad.
4%. Yes, that oasis will do quite nicely. It isn’t as great as the one you saw at 78%, but it will do. It’s got some nice flower-things, and some enjoyable trees. You could see yourself being happy with this oasis.
3%. Just imagine how life with this oasis is going to be. Things are gonna be okay here. You just have to hold out! This is the other shoe dropping: oasis happiness where you least expected it. What a quaint experience.
2%. God, you need this. More than anything you’ve ever needed. You’ve got tunnel vision for this little carved chunk of heaven, ablaze with glory in the desolate hell of life. It’s almost time. All you need to do is put in a little more effort, and it’s yours. It’s within reach—it’s all you’ve ever wanted, and more. It’s perfect.
1%. Will you make it? Honestly, it’s questionable. And that kills you. This oasis—the one reprieve from the tiring tread through nothingness and despair—this oasis is supposed to save you. That’s what you believe, right? Happiness trumps all. Pursue that one dream, and only that dream, until you’ve earned it. Nothing less. You’re close.
0%. You’re not close. The trees you hold so dear are but a silhouette on the horizon. The ephemeral breeze casts alien sand over your fragile, lifeless body. It slowly fades into the ground, alone and desperate, as it always was.
The shoe never drops. There is no twist, no sweeping plot change to revolutionize your experience. You just walk, look at things, and die. You’re supposed to make the most of that, yet you are constantly looking for…something.
Things don’t have to go this way. You don’t have to walk through the emptiness for miles, searching for a value that you can’t comprehend or see. Restart Orchids to Dusk, and try stopping at an oasis or two. Stay for a while. Enjoy nature and the beloved flower-things around you. Use your time wisely next to an awkward tree, listening to the tunes and watching the spectacle. And when you’re ready…remove your helmet, accept your bliss, and create happiness for another weary traveler of life.
Orchids to Dusk is a game about life, death, and the acceptance of both. It’s about the search for joy, and how these discoveries crop up in unexpected places. Most of all, it’s a short, cathartic experience that you need to try.