I first came across TRAUMA after having subscribed to the blog gamedesignreviews because I thought that Krystian Majewski’s trilogy about the shortcomings of Mass Effect’s interface design 2 was interesting. Somewhere between all the other posts Krystian wrote about the indie game that he was developing, posted about its progress - about the good and bad times.
I was curious, being my ever curious self for one and wanting to make games myself too. Also there are a whole lot of other quality articles on that site but that is not what this article is about. After having followed the process quite some time there came the beta. For a reason I can’t remember I wasn’t on the Internet at that time - when I saw he started a private beta for the game I immediately mailed him with a request. I was granted one. I still have that mail.
At that time I was very excited about the fact of being in a private beta - probably more than about the game. Anyway. I have to admit something very evil right upfront: My first thought while starting up TRAUMA was “meh. Flash.” Enough with the prejudices though.
The essence of TRAUMA’s story is easy to grasp. There’s a girl who had a car accident and is now in hospital where she has four recurring, metaphor-laden dreams. You have to experience those dreams and help her through them, all the while getting to think about the questions that are asked by the almost ghostly voice-over as well as those that your own mind will invariably make up while playing. Really, it’s a sort of journey - not only through the girl’s dreams as also through thoughts and doubts that might open up in your own mind.
I found out about the movement by either clicking on different photos or drawing those beautiful light symbols. The game gives little hints how you are supposed to solve certain situations and I’d argue that from a gameplay point of view everything is obvious, if not always intuitive. I never struggled to grasp any of the concepts which can be boiled down to “which tool solves which situations” 3. TRAUMA is not about the puzzling. TRAUMA also isn’t about ultrahigh textured graphics either - though Krystian did an impressive job editing all these photos he took himself. TRAUMA, with its surreal atmosphere, its subtle soundtrack, its countless hints that everything you see might just be another metaphor for some deeply troubling thought in the girl’s mind - it has some similarities to the recently released Dear Esther I’d say. It might work better for you if you don’t consider it just another game on your huge pile but as an experience.
It took me about two hours back then to finish the game and dig up every last hidden photo save one. I sent feedback that spoke quite highly about the game, I remember. There came a second beta which was less interesting for me since there were improvements but nothing particularly astonishing that might have blown my mind. Time passed. Fast forward to Gamescom 2011 where I met Krystian during a little break and congratulated him on the release.
He’s an interesting person to talk to. He’s nice, polite and interested in many other genres and games than you might think. He’s as prepared to talk about some mainstream titles, movies as well as elaborate on the latest indie hits or events in the dev scene.
Several months later I decided to pick my copy - as in virtual copy on STEAM that is - up again and have a second run, just to see what changed from beta to release. Sadly my memory is quite bad and the only thing that I remember - that is very rememberable though - is an improved hint system for collectibles as well as an option to check already found ones without leaving the current level. Still I found the game very enjoyable even during the second time.
So, if the beta has long passed and the release was also some time ago, why do write this article right now? Because Krystian just released a new improved version of the game and that made me think you should try the game too.
Should you play this game: Yes.
However, even after typing this long post I still don’t know why writing about this game took me so long, sorry Krystian. ↩
That this is not the case for a person rather new to games I could watch myself when demoing the game to a friend of mine. ↩