It’s the age-old question asked by annoying people that should know better: ‘are games art?’ (to which the answer obviously is, ‘yes, some are, some aren’t, just like any form of media’, but that’s a subject for another time.)
Can Androids Pray: Blue takes a very different approach to answering that question. It’s not so much a game as an interactive piece of art. In fact, it’s hard to argue it’s a game at all since there’s no real gameplay to speak of. It’s like something you’d find in a hidden room of an exhibition at the V&A; you’d settle yourself down, play through it and emerge pondering its meaning.
My advice would be to go in completely blind and let it surprise you. The one question I guess you want me to answer is whether it’s worth the £5.79 asking price. Personally, I’d say perhaps not. It doesn’t last very long at all so you might find shocked at how quickly it ends. It all depends on what you’re looking for though. Who am I to put a price on art? It’s not a huge sum of money at the end of the day, so if you find yourself suitably intrigued go for it.
Still want to know more though? OK.
The game takes place on a desolate version of Earth’s future. Two mechs with female pilots lie paralysed in craters on a battlefield; their conversation is the entire game. You can choose from a range of responses, depending on the attitude you want to take with your fallen comrade. The script is well-written and does a great job of setting a very complex world full of background information in the space of a few sentences.
The graphics and sound are fairly basic, but their stylised look of simple polygonal evokes the look of 1989’s Mechwarrior, or those early Virtuality VR games you used to get in arcades, so I enjoyed the retro feel to it. The conversation and scenario serve only to set up a single question. A dilemma that will hit home and leave you reeling from the implications. While the experience itself is a short one, the question it leaves you with will stay with you far longer.
On replaying the game I choose some different answers and did receive some new information that added some further background information to the story. Nothing that was essential, but interesting nonetheless. A second play-through can be done even quicker too, so it’s worth doing just to see the others responses play out.
While I could go on and give more information around the story, I really am reluctant to; the more that’s left unsaid the better. If you want to try something completely different, a tightly focused artistic experience that does what all great art should; makes you think, then I recommend giving it a try.
My big complaint however is that if this was in fact a part of a wider exhibition at the V&A, you’d have a number of other pieces on display alongside it. Pieces you could study and analyse; pieces to help give context to this one. When I said it’s a short experience, I meant it – you’re looking at around 20 minutes for the entire play-through. So as this stands it leaves me wanting more from the developers; what else do they have to say? If for instance this was packaged up alongside two or three other similar experiences that all said different things on the same topic, you’d have something truly special.