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Freeware Review - Looming

Looming is a top-down exploration game by Gregory Weir, whose (I Fell in Love with) The Majesty of Colors I liked very much.  In this game, you play a man exploring an unknown land, piecing together the events that happened there with artifacts strewn about the world. Your task is to explore the game world, try to collect all the hidden objects, and open all of the portals which lead to the game’s many endings.  The visuals and music are sparse and lovely, the exploration is engaging and the narrative elements are unique, even if they get a bit “on the nose” at times.  Overall, this is a really solid game, and one that happens to be right up my alley.

You play as September, who is writing letters to January about his time in the strange place called Looming.  Whether Looming is a different planet, a different dimension or just a really weird town is unknown, but the fact that our character seems to come and go by way of portals seems to suggest the otherworldly.  Once you’re plopped into Looming, you can read the nearest signpost which gives you only the name of the world, but lets you know that there will be information scattered around, if you look for it.  While some of that info will come from the signs, most of it will be given to you in fragments from things you pick up off the ground. There are over a dozen objects to pick up, most of which tell you a little something about the people that left them behind.

In the land of Looming, there seems to be three (for lack of a better word) “races” - two of which were more or less native and a third who came later.  The objects you pick up (beads, stone tablets, etc.) come from these people.  The two “native” peoples are interesting (when I could tell them apart), and the game offers little glimpses into a fascinating spirituality they hold to.  The newcomers, though, were very clearly something like modern humans, and their part of the story seemed to be a (very) thinly-veiled jab at the European invasion of the Americas.  These people try to teach the others about science and the others marvel at how much they seem to know about those things and how little about practical things like building shelter.  It’s a shame this portrayal got so heavy-handed because the rest of the game is actually pretty subtle and intriguing. 

In terms of gameplay, all you do is move with the arrow keys and interact with the ‘X’ key, but it’s slightly more challenging than that sentence would suggest.  This is because the world you have to explore is fairly large (for a top-down flash game), and the objects you have to find are extremely small.  Take a look at the screenshot above.  See all the tiny white dots? Can you see the one tiny white dot that is slightly brighter than the rest, and a little off the pattern?  That’s what you’re looking for, and what all of your 20+ objects will look like, and finding them all takes time and an explorer’s spirit. There are even some things to find that are completely hidden, and which you can only find via hints (and a little luck).  Exploring this world is a lot of fun.  There’s so much to see, and the fact that the collectibles are so small incentivizes stopping to look around which I think was a really smart choice.

The items come in sets, and each time you complete a set, there is a chance to open up a new portal home, which reveals another one of what I’ve called “endings” but are actually just additional bits of the story told via letters between January and September.  The game wisely lets you know how many of these you’ve yet to find, which keeps you searching and trying things, and there is apparently a bonus at the end for having found them all (I didn’t manage that).  Opening up these portals is perhaps the most “traditional” gameplay here - because you have to read hints and manipulate the environment to solve puzzles.  These bits were pretty satisfying and broke up the pure exploration nicely.

Looming is a quality effort, through and through.  Some of the story bits fell somewhat flat for me, but the aesthetic is unique and the exploration works beautifully.  It’s simple, challenging and effectively sucks you into the world.  This is one I can recommend without hesitation.  Go give it a try at this link and say hi to the developer at his site.