What do two secret lovers in a hotel room in Rome, a wealthy lady in an old mansion in England and a physician in the south of the USA have in common? They are all meeting at a masked ball aboard a train that is tearing through a beautiful winter night. Also, they are all characters in the point-&-click adventure game If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travelers by the studio Dead Idle Games, based in Berlin, Germany.
Three characters with three seperate stories that – at first – don’t seem to have anything in common.
The game’s title is inspired by Italo Calvino’s book If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. Calvino is known for his experiments on narrative structure and unconventional approaches to storytelling. Among game designers Invisible Cities is a very popular choice and is often discussed. Laura Hunt and Thomas Möhring from Dead Idle Games also chose to take a more unconventional approach to tell their short story: Three characters with three seperate stories that – at first – don’t seem to have anything in common.
It is most impressive, how the two-person team was able to create such a dense and atmospheric world: The pixel art of the 1920s sets is detailed and beautiful – the lighting is fantastic. The animations give every action gravity and meaning. The writing creates an interesting and believable cast of diverse characters and the music ads a sense of gloominess and uncomfort. It’s a piece of art, no doubt.
It’s a piece of art, no doubt.
The game lasts for about two hours, but it does feel more like four or five (in a good way). If you are interested in a well-staged, handcrafted point-&-click adventure game in a magical realism world, this game is for you. If you are not convinced yet, go and watch the trailer – it gives a good first impression of the game’s story.
Let me add one more thing: In other articles I read several times that it is a “free game”. Technically, that might be correct, because you can get it without paying anything. Nevertheless, I think it is important to stress, that it is actually “name your own price” – at least on itch.io (on Steam you can buy the Supporter Package with soundtrack and art book). So, please, if you want the developers to create more games like this, pay an amount that seems reasonable to you. I really would love to play another game like this.
This article is an extended version of the Indie Gem Corner section in our monthly newsletter, The Narrative Outlook. If you are interested in fresh news on narrative games and what our studio is up to, feel free to subscribe right on our website. If you would like to play this month’s indie gem, head over to the itch or Steam. Don’t forget to tell us about your favorite moment on our Discord.