Samorost2 by Jakub Dvorský

“She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom and her eyes immediately met those of a large blue caterpillar, that was sitting on the top, with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else ...” Lewis Carroll: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

An interactive poetic expression
You are in a strange landscape. You remember you are on a mission, but for now you want to stop and contemplate the rugged surface of an impossibly odd rock face. You touch a leaf to make it gently drift away and brush against some paper-thin mushrooms scattered across the forest floor, making them twitch. In the distance you catch a glimpse of a school of walrus-like creatures drifting across the starry sky. It’s really quite simple. Our hero, a gnome-like character, witnesses some aliens kidnapping his dog. He gets into his spaceship to free his best friend. All in all a straightforward interactive story with an easy point-and- click interface: Solve a number of quirky puzzles to complete the game.

However, most players immediately recognise that a major part of Samorost2 lies beyond the string of problems leading to the final solution. Some might say that the progression of the plot is merely a framework for an entirely different goal: a mental journey through a sequence of independent time bubbles, each of these being an intricately designed audiovisual poetic statement.

A journey through a strange world
The story is obviously constructed as an archetypal fairy-tale. It contains all of the essential character types and structural elements that we can find in the Russian structuralist Vladimir Propp’s analyses of the folk tales of his native country. In a nutshell the hero is forced to leave the stability of his home, embarking on a journey, encountering magical helpers and villains, solving difficult tasks, and being rewarded in the end. Countless variations of this narrative model have become commonplace in modern folklore. Samorost2 is a contribution to a literary tradition that communicates equally well with children as with adults. But as the case is with most fairy-tales, there is something more to it.

The game is equally in debt to modern classics as Saint-Exupérys The Little Prince and the psychedelic masterpiece Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Something seeps through the cracks in the seemingly banal surface. We are in a literally unreal world put together from fragments of well-known objects. Chunks of moss, plants and forest debris are digitally recombined and infused with new life. Toying with our sense of scale and place, tiny roots become giant cliffs, bits of wood and old mushrooms are assembled into planets and old tin cans become spacecrafts. All around us we find explicit references to mind-altering substances – from glowing mushrooms to opium poppies and a familiar guru character preoccupied with his smoking utensils. To play Samorost2 is to delve into the strangeness of our surroundings – experiencing, listening and interacting with the world around us, flowing with the crooked logic. Through simple technical means and great skill, Samorost2 explores the potentials of computer games as original artistic expressions without sacrificing playability and humour. Turn up the volume, pay attention to your surroundings, and
explore the world of Samorost2.

By Thomas Petersen