After Outer Wilds and What Remains of Edith Finch, Annapurna proposes I Am Dead, an Indie to be experienced with the spirit of a quiet lonely traveler.
“People are limited by time, memories are not“The sentence, pronounced by one of the protagonists of I Am Dead, perfectly presents the central theme of small independent production. Shaped by Richard Hogg is Hollow Ponds, this delightful adventure full of nostalgia and hope is published by Annapurna Interactive, a publisher that has over time demonstrated the ability to spot excellent Indie radars, such as Outer Wilds or What Remains of Edith Finch.
Puzzle game with a solid narrative structure, I Am Dead garnered public attention in March of this year, thanks to a quick presentation on the virtual stage at Nintendo Indie World in spring. Now, the game is ready to debut on Nintendo Switch is PC (Street Steam ed Epic Games Store), with an entrance ticket of just over fifteen euros, English dubbing and Italian subtitles. After having had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the vibrant videogame universe painted by Hollow Ponds, we can only confirm the positive impressions already emerged in the previous preview of I Am Dead: the adventure we lived in his company was in fact simple, but full of charm. and charisma.
Why save Shelmerston?
Our videogame alter ego is dead. I Am Dead makes no secret of it, making our condition evident, as well as in the title, already in the first minutes of the game. For Morris Lupton, curator of the local history museum, however, the time has not yet come to continue his “journey to the West“Before enjoying the afterlife, he has in fact an important mission to carry out: to save his beloved home, the island of Shelmerston.
Located in the north of the Atlantic Ocean, the atoll is dominated by a massive volcano that has been dormant for hundreds of years, a condition that has allowed the local community to thrive around its dormant slopes. A stillness which, however, is not the result of fate, but of the protective action of a mysterious Island Keeper. Spirit who has renounced to walk the path opened with death, the latter has dedicated its afterlife to the containment of the majestic life energy that dwells in Shelmerston. After such a long commitment, however, the guardian is now tested, unable to stop the furious eruption that the local volcano is preparing to unleash.
The solution? Find a replacement, of course! And no, the plot isn’t that predictable – it can’t be the good Morris Lupton, who is also incredibly fond of his land, to take its place. To explain the reasons is Sparky, the adorable little dog of the protagonist, who like him has passed to a better life. Having become a ghost, man is now able to understand its language and follow its wise indications. Our mission is to track down the spirits of five possible candidates to the role of Keeper, to then propose to them to take on their own, incorporeal, shoulders the heavy burden of Shelmerston’s protection.
To recall the island’s long-dead inhabitants, it will be necessary to do a journey through the souls of people still alive who keep a precious memory of it in their hearts. Floating between the different areas of this unusual corner of the Atlantic Ocean, we found a surprising microcosm awaiting us. Rebuilt with an extremely minimal and sometimes surreal graphic style, the city universe of I Am Dead turned out to be surprisingly deep.
Built with extreme care, Shelmerston is a cradle whose inhabitants cultivate dreams, loves, contrasts and passions that have their roots in an articulated everyday life. It doesn’t matter whether they are humans, bizarre anthropomorphic birds or even stranger fish-men: each of the citizens whose path our ghost intercepts has something to tell. Simple stories, but rich in details capable of making them concrete and, in their apparent banality, fascinating. All in an incredibly elaborate setting that captures unexpected images and circumstances.
Shelmerston is able to seduce with its details. A lighthouse turned into
Yoga center run by a green-thumbed robot, pubs frequented by small fishermen forced to face competition from large fishing boats, campsites animated by birdwatcher and activists who oppose the hunt for the Morlo (tender reinterpretation of the manatees), a park reserved for the works of creative contemporary sculptors: these are just some of the snapshots that reside in the Hollow Ponds production. If faced with the soul of a patient solitary traveler, the world of I Am Dead will seduce you without you realizing it, on an island that would do honor to the most dreamlike landings of Corto Maltese’s sails.
Investigate and explore thoroughly
On the gameplay front, I Am Dead proposes a simple but well thought out formula, built around a first person view. To reconnect with the ghosts we are looking for, as mentioned, we will have to rely on the memories of those who keep the memory. Each of these has a specific object as its protagonist. Our task will be to retrieve these relics, whether it be a painted stone, a Frisbee, a toast or a whistle. In fact, in the latter lies the energy that will allow us to recall the spectrum associated with them.
Getting our ectoplasmic hands on these specific objects won’t be an easy task, however. Fortunately, a particularly useful superpower comes to our aid. Passed to a better life, our Morris Lupton has in fact acquired a view accompanied by a sort of supernatural x-rays, which allow him to peer through all kinds of surfaces. Divided into macro areas, Shelmerston is in fact made up of an enormous number of interactive dioramas, within which we will have to sharpen our sight and ingenuity to be able to find what we are looking for.
A room can be hidden inside a building; a locker in the room; a backpack in the locker; in the backpack a box; in the box the object we are hunting for: an apparently trivial mechanic, but which in truth is never frustrating or boring. In reverse, each object present in the scenarios tells something of this bizarre corner of the Atlantic Ocean and the search for the most disparate trinkets, tools and artifacts will eventually turn into an addictive activity.
This last aspect will manifest itself with particular force starting from the moment in which Sparky will present us i Grenkin. These little sprites lurk in the most unlikely places and hunting them to collect them all will prove to be quite a challenging activity. In fact, to find them it will not be enough to identify the correct object, but it will be essential to analyze it thoroughly, combining our X-rays with the commands related to view and perspective.
Initially, the mechanics may be a bit convoluted, but once you understand the basic principles, the process will be more immediate. Sparky will intervene to help us in the hunt for the Grenkin, who will provide us with the image of the silhouette that we will have to try to reproduce, and, on Nintendo Switch, the vibrations of the Joy-Con, which will intensify as we get closer to the goal.
Going fast, it is possible to reach the credits in about 5 or 6 hours, but we warn you: this is the least suitable approach to enjoying I Am Dead. The universe painted with such care and attention by Hollow Ponds in fact deserves to be discovered in small steps, letting oneself be lulled by the bittersweet melancholy aroused by the exploration of the small, but extraordinarily alive microcosm of Shelmerston.
I Am DeadNintendo Switch Analyzed VersionI Am Dead is a delightful adventure, to be savored without haste, indulging the sincere curiosity aroused by that so extravagant, yet so human, microcosm that is the island of Shelmerston. The strength of the title lies in a narrative full of sentiment and precious details, expertly connected to a gameplay mechanic as simple as it is addictive. An unmissable trip for those slow travelers who love to bask in nostalgia, recalling the importance of memory, but without losing sight of the future.