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There have always been two kinds of computer generated content that were meant to entertain: games and mostly non interactive demos. In the first category we get all the commercial and indie productions where it's all about the plot or skill. In the second category, we have the vast world of computer scene, which, for the most part, offers us non-interactive audiovisual demonstrations that aim to either entertain or impress, by pushing the hardware boundaries.


There has been, however, very little content that would fit in between all the games and scene demos. Lately, Tale of Tales have been hard at work, trying to bridge this gap. Their philosophy is simple - art comes first, interactivity, plot and accessibility comes second. This approach resulted in several off-beat titles being made, one of which, The Graveyard, I have already written about. Tale of Tales' newest, for the lack of a better description, interactive experience is called Fatale: Exploring Salome.


Fatale is not a game in the usual sense of the word, but, simply because it feels wrong to call it an interactive experience over and over again, I'll allow myself to call it just that - a game. The story presented in Fatale is based on Oscar Wilde's Salome but if you're hoping to play a plot driven adventure featuring the daughter of Herodias and tons of drama, you will be disappointed. This time, you'll be controlling the actions of John the Baptist, briefly.


The game does not waste any time on explaining the Salome story to the player, so unless you know it already, you'll have to educate yourself on the subject. But, since I'm a nice guy and you're already here, reading this, I might just as well spare you the trouble of looking it up. Long story short - Salome is a biblical character, featured in the gospels of the New Testament. On the day of her stepfather's, Herod Antipas', birthday, she performed a dance, as a reward for which, she would get one of her wishes granted. Influenced by her mother, Herodias, Salome requested John the Baptist to be beheaded. This was Herodias' revenge on John, for calling her marriage to Herod unlawful.


That's the original story. Oscar Wilde's version has Salome taking an interest in John the Baptist, called Jokanaan in the play, but being rejected by him and called daughter of Sodom. Here, it is the rejection that is the reason behind Jokanaan's execution. In both versions however, the cut off head is placed on a silver platter that's given to Salome. As you can see, starting the game as John the Baptist eliminates any possibility of a happy end. Especially since the very first scene is taking place in a dungeon, atop of which Salome is dancing the dance of seven veils, after which she will get her wish granted.


We do lose our head very early in the game, but after that we get to roam freely around and above the terrace build upon the place of our execution. Time seems to be frozen and we find Salome looking into empty space with the severed head on a platter beside her. This scene is the main part of the experience. We explore the terrace while stealing the flames from the candles. We find the seven veils scattered all over the place and even though we do not have a physical form, we can affect some objects by creating really gentle gusts of wind which allow us to move the veils around.


Once we steal all the flames, the night turns into day and the game ends, or so it would seem. When we start it again, we'll witness Salome's dance viewed from Herod's perspective. The girl will be working hard to keep us entertained, and all we can do is zoom in and admire her beauty for brief moments, before the flashes showing parts of her body will cause the camera to zoom out again. When Salome is done, the show really is over and we can start again, from scratch.


All this writing and I didn't even mention the music. A huge mistake, since the music and sound are a very important part of the Fatale experience. When imprisoned at the very beginning, we'll hear the music playing. The music that accompanies Salome's dance. Once it reaches its climax, our head comes off. When we explore the terrace and steal the flames, we hear all sorts of whispers, which create an unforgettable atmosphere. During the last sequence when Salome dances in front of Herod, we get to hear the same music as the one we heard at the beginning, only this time we hear it clearly.


Is Fatale worth the $7 Tale of Tales is asking for it? I'd say it is. It's less play than The Path, but so much more than The Graveyard, and we don't have to pay extra just to see the severed head. There are very few characters in the game, but those you'll see look brilliant, which isn't a surprise really, since they were designed by Takayoshi Sato of Silent Hill fame. Tale of Tales did a great job of putting this incredible experience together. It's definitely not for everyone, but those who are curious and don't have high hopes for hours of gameplay might get a pleasant surprise. After finishing Fatale I'm still curious about one thing, though. Throughout the terrace scene there are several modern age objects placed here and there. You can spot a guitar with an amplifier, a match-book with "Salome - Call me" written on it and an iPod on Salome herself. What's that about, Tale of Tales?
PR

A game or not a game
The best thing about Tale of Tales' games is that they make people discuss about what games really are.

And it's quite ironic that the people involved in indie games are so conservative about this.
Inlagd 2009 . 11 . 21(Sat)00:51:51 Edit
.
That's exactly why I thought Fatale was worth of spending $7 on. It is very different, even to those who are used to the more quirky indie releases.

Besides, I've seen people pay more and get less. Fatale has violence and nudity. What more could a gamer ask for, right?
2009 . 11 . 2103:46
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