Review: Hope: The other side of adventure

Poster

The press release for Hope: The other side of adventure said that it was “a video game disguised as an interactive experience. It can be considered an anti-game.” That, combined with the plot, drove me to check out this free game from the App Store. Watch the trailer:

Plot

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Also from the press release:

“Hope immerses us in an archetypal “prince-rescues-princess” story, but under some premises never seen before. It will make you wonder what would you do if, instead of playing the hero’s role, the one who must prove his bravery, you would be in the princess’s shoes, being the one who always suffers, who passively waits subjected to her captor, who has to play the role of keeping the hope that someday she will be rescued.

I know it may sound a bit awkward at the beginning, and also while playing the game you may feel kind of disappointed with how sexist it could be. But in the end, there are no more intentions here than to make you feel as one of the hundreds of thousands princesses who have been a mere “passive goal” in the history of video games.”

The game’s purpose, then, is to make us aware of the tropes of helpless women, to put us in their shoes instead of, say, Mario’s. At the beginning of Hope, the prince and princess are having a picnic and she gets kidnapped. We then see the knight on a map that is definitely inspired by the Mario games. We begin to play as him, with our controls being run, jump, and swing the sword, but after we get him through his first stage, we get this message:

“We can all imagine how the prince’s journey goes: he fights, jumps, kills, discovers secrets, goes to the next level, and so on. But the princess lives her own story too. A very important part, though a dark one. Why are princess’s stories always unknown to us? This is a game mainly focused on the princess. Her experience, her agony, and above all…her hope.”

This sets the stage for how the rest of the game will play out.

Graphics and Sound

Screen0

Hope is powered by Unity. It looks fine, especially considering that the graphics are not the main focus of the game. Nothing really stood out to me, but the princess’s tower (which is basically the only thing you see) was very nicely rendered. The princess and the knight are a little more cartoony than the environments. There are also a few sections of the game which use pixel art, like the aforementioned map and the opening scene that depicts the picnic. I think this pixel art is used to emphasize how universal this trope is and how long it’s been going on for.

I really liked the actress who portrayed the princess. The knight and duke are only heard once, and I wasn’t very impressed with them – they were much too over the top. The music was excellent, with a really nice choral piece being used as the main theme. There is also a song after the credits, which is a little…off-key, but I can’t sing at all, so I shouldn’t talk.

Gameplay

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The game only has new content for five minutes every day for six days. This is very meta in that it simulates the actual wait for the knight that the princess is suffering through. Each day, you get a new monologue from the princess that details what has happened since you last played. You also see the knight’s progress along the map, but never play as him again after the first day. As the princess, the movement stick shuffles you around the tower very slowly, the A button makes you cry, and the B button makes you sigh. (Yes, really…) As each day progresses, the princess gets more and more run down. Sometimes she fantasizes about killing the guards, sometimes she dreads her kidnapper, and sometimes she daydreams about the prince. As the game goes on, there is some potentially triggering imagery and subject matter involving violence towards women that I found more than a little disturbing – one never thinks about Princess Peach being tortured. I don’t think the makers of the game approached this aspect of it with enough sensitivity. I understand what they were trying to do (this is what’s happening to the princess while you’re having fun fighting creatures to get to her)…but it didn’t sit right with me.

The text translations (the game was created in Madrid) are sometimes awkward, but they get the point across. The voiced story is translated much better, and I never really noticed any odd turn of phrase in that. Sometimes the writing is a little clichéd and overwrought, but it’s trying to point out tropes to us, so I could forgive it somewhat.

A last note I want to make is that we don’t learn the princess’s name until the end song, but we never learn the prince’s – further suggesting that the creators are using the prince and the princess as objects/tropes to comment on rather than as characters to flesh out.

Final Verdict

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Despite the ambitious idea behind the game, I found myself turned off by it. It puts us in the princess’s shoes, yes, but it doesn’t say anything particularly unique or interesting about the tropes it’s trying to explore. The princess is a flat character, and I wish she had been portrayed as stronger (or at least had more options than sighing and crying). Perhaps I’m missing the point, but I don’t think that the princess had to be so passive in order to explore the trope. I also felt that the game lacked a satisfying closure – there is no monologue from the princess on the last day. I feel like the creators wanted to get in on the current conversation about the portrayal of women in video games, but their attempt falls flat. However, for free, it won’t hurt to take a look. Maybe you’ll get more out of it than I did.

Score: C

You can get Hope: The other side of adventure for iOS in the app store for free, with no in-app purchases (rare these days!). It’s compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. Check out Mr. Roboto Game Studio’s official site, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

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