An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

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Now maybe all of you 30+ gamers out there are going to laugh at me when I say this, thinking to yourselves, “No duh!” but I just stumbled across this EXACT story on a 1964 episode of the Twilight Zone (An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, season 5: episode 23) which was in turn a licensed first US broadcast of a 1962 Cannes Film Festival and Academy Award winning French short film titled La Rivière du Hibou. I was thumbing my way through the Twilight Zone episode list on Netflix when the title An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge just jumped off the screen at me! I had no idea it was a movie AND a Twilight Zone episode too! I just thought it was an excellent short story. I highly recommend you watch the Twilight Zone episode if you can

Gameplay

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Seemingly Pointless is, at first glance, a 5 minute long game snippet refugee from Atari’s scrapped development pile. That was my first thought….until I played the game. I will say that I played the game not having read the short story on which it is based, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce but felt so compelled by this 5 minute long little gem that I went immediately and read the story and found it to be excellent. This will probably be one of my shortest game reviews ever but I feel like it doesn’t matter, that I have to let people know about this unique game and how it really gets you thinking.

A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below.

A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below.

Again, having played the game without reading the source material, I surmised that the game takes place in the Civil War era America – based solely on the style and color of the uniforms. Keep in mind, there is absolutely no dialog. The game starts with you in the shoes of a captured “grey” solider, standing out on a plank off a railway bridge, rope around his neck, ready to be hanged by the “blue” army that prevents your escape back onto the bridge. The only way to go, rope and all, is off the plank. It’s a leap of faith and I felt myself hoping the rope would break. I don’t want to say too much since, in a game this short, saying just about anything will be a spoiler. In the game that follows this starting scene, I found myself strangely understanding EXACTLY what was going on even though the game never openly tells you. I found myself attached to my little “grey” avatar. It was this attachment that kept me going through the game and not dismissing it as a snippet or “not fun”. The attachment also makes the ending of the game that much more thought provoking.

Seemingly Pointless has managed to, with a free game making development tool, and a carefully thought out 5 minutes of game play, create a highly unique interactive experience. I can’ recommend this game on any of the tenets I normally recommend a game of high quality – graphics, length, voice work, etc… but I most HIGHLY recommend it on the basis that it  embodies something very rare in gaming today –  a very strong and compelling message that demonstrates how game design can be an art and how video games can be used to tell a story. and are a testament to how video games can be used to tell a story. I recommend you read the fictional story AFTER you play through the game. I get the feeling it would be a different experience if you read the story first.

Graphics

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge graphics are Atari-like. Simple at best but this game is all about the story and not the graphics. The graphics do an admirable job conveying the action and the reflective story beneath it in a sort of “painterly” style that becomes charming as you watch the story unfold. My first inclination was to laugh at the graphics but it occurred to me as I played that I was watching a sort of moving story illustration and not so many pixels or sprites. If you’ve come looking for whiz-bang 3D graphics or special effects than this is probably not the game for you.

HIDE! They're coming!

HIDE! They’re coming!

 

Audio

There is no voice work in An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge but there is a little bit of music and a fair amount of sound that together create a very effective sense of tension as you play.  Again, this is a totally FREE game developed using a free game making tool to tell a story and get you thinking more than to simply entertain. I feel the game’s audio works to that end.

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