Pursuit of Meaning – First Sip Review

Pursuit of Meaning is a short indie adventure game. Set in a frozen tundra. Developed by Gershgames and available on itch.io.

Story

The game focuses on a wheelchair-bound heroine who lives in a frozen tundra. An old friend visits one day while she is performing her usual ritual of gathering wood and trying not to freeze to death. This friend Jenna tells you of a lush green world beyond the confines of the snow and “the wall”. Jenna offers you the choice to accompany her on her adventure or remain in the safe stable life you have built.

From there the path diverges. If you choose to stay then you will have a short text-based story about, love, loss, and life.

If you choose to go with Jenna, then you will journey across the frozen plains to seek the promised paradise. Along the way, you will meet other characters and hear tales of the world.

It’s all about the angles.

Graphics

If you choose the staying at home route then the graphics are about as minimal as you can get. A black screen with clickable text boxes and some text.

If you choose to leave then the game takes on a far different visual style. One that while still fairly minimal compared to other games is still much brighter than the black screen. The art style looks like it was made in a basic paint program and is very hit and miss. When zoomed out the backgrounds can look either effective or childlike. Similarly, the character models look ok when zoomed out and stationary. But when most characters move their walk cycles look bizarre and sometimes silly. Notably, George who looks like he is skipping and a Viking warrior character who seems to slide around.

When Jenna first comes to talk to you there is a portrait of her on-screen. In this picture, you can see her blindfold and her worn clothing. Never again do you see a picture like this but it stands out as being the most detailed the art gets.

The promised land beyond the tundra.

Sound

There are a few pieces of music in the game, mostly piano-based. They fit in really well and help to elevate the scenes. While in the house the ambient wind noise also fits in quite well. Beyond that, the sound effects range between adequate and somewhat out of place. With things like the “puzzle” solving noise feeling more cartoony than the themes of the game.

The game is also voice acted, fully voice acted. And again it ranges between adequate and out of place. The actual quality of the voice over is bad, there is a lot of background white noise hissing. When a character had to emote the audio gets even worse with audible audio spikes and distortion. This is a shame because as a voice actor you really need to emote, so it feels like the actors are being hamstrung by the audio limitations.

The most out of place performance though would be George. George sounds like Bennet Foddy from Getting Over It. Everything he says is measured and calm with little to no inflection. Sometimes this comes across as laughable when paired with the dialogue. As there are conversations where Jenna is telling an emotional backstory and George just sounds like he’s responding to someone casually asking how he’s been.

In the caves of not Moria.

Gameplay

The game is short, like very short. About 30 minutes to complete. The Pursuit of Meaning starts off in an idle/clicker game mold. You select the options to gather wood and light your fire. Once you have enough wood you can improve your house or the amount of wood you get each time. If you choose to stay at home the game remains this way. With Jenna occasionally cutting in to talk about things like when you marry a stranger or have a child with said stranger.

If you choose to leave then you basically just walk to the right for the most part. Jenna can be launched as an attack and can even ricochet around things to solve puzzles.

“Puzzles” needs a grain of salt though. As every situation can be solved by launching Jenna around. When you hold the button or key to launch her you get an aiming line, but routinely she will not follow it. Sometimes she can go through an object while other times she will bounce off of it. And various doors that need to be unlocked seem to just unlock on a whim. With enemies and bombs still sitting there untouched.

Remnants of an old world.

Overall

The Pursuit of Meaning, like the title implies, is more about the themes than the gameplay. It is quite short. The voice acting audio and some performances are bad. The gameplay is strange, firing your warrior like a weapon. There are visual bugs such as the screen stuttering as if the camera were hooked on something underneath it but constantly trying to move up. In a few scenes, Jenna is moved to interact with something but can still be “fired”. And even the story itself has faults, such as a character telling you the answer to his question will decide your fate but both options lead to the same outcome. The same character also talks about magic after his death when nothing of the sort was mentioned earlier.

This all might sound overly negative, but there is one thing I cannot fault. The sincerity. The people behind this game seem to have genuinely wanted to create something. There is nothing cynical about Pursuit of Meaning. It’s not a cash grab or an asset flip. There are cogent points about real-world themes. And there is potential if all the rough edges are smoothed out.

In Coffee Terms

Pursuit of Meaning in coffee terms is like an experienced barista that can’t afford the top of line utensils or ingredients but desperately wants to make you a coffee from the bottom of their heart. The flavor might not be what they were hoping for but there is something there. An undeniable drive to create. And with time, affection, effort, and hopefully at least an actual coffee pot, one day they will nail the recipe.

Pursuit of Meaning Links

itch.io: https://gershgames.itch.io/pursuit-of-meaning
Developer page: https://gershgames.itch.io/

50/100
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