Bientôt l'été [pronounced, roughly, be-YEN-too LAY-tay
, meaning "soon the summer"] is a complex game that’s difficult to describe. In comparison to other game releases, Bientôt l'été avoids the traditional path of an entertainment outlet in favor of using the medium to create a piece of conceptual art. Most surprisingly, developer Tale of Tales describes Bientôt l'été as “not a game to be won” and one that doesn't include a goal or story. Yet, no matter the game’s description or exact classification, the actual experience is what’s important and ultimately Bientôt l'été delivers mixed results.
The science fiction-inspired premise involves players beginning the game as either a male or female avatar that is used within a virtual reality-created world aboard an orbital space station. Upon selecting an avatar, the player finds themselves along the shore of a beach with crashing waves and roaming seagulls. However, the virtual world is not as it seems, as poetic French phrases randomly appear before the avatar in addition to a rapidly-changing day and night cycle.
The French phrases collected during walks on the virtual beach can then be used to communicate with another avatar through a game of chess. Individuals can randomly be paired with an anonymous person or decide to play against a computer avatar. Both the French phrases used to communicate as well as the chess board pieces must be collected on the seashore. Players ready for an awkward exchange of French poetry or game of freeform chess can enter the sole building on the beach. The combination of the game’s elements from drinking virtual wine during a chess game to aimless walks alongside a seashore results in a both obscure and mysterious experience that’s continually open to player interpretation.
The components in Bientôt l'été that request player input such as chess and exploring the seashore, which could be considered the closest elements to traditional goal-orientated gameplay, don’t quite succeed at providing players with content that’s compelling enough to warrant extended sessions of gameplay or even second playthroughs. The actual process of playing chess in the game is not restricted by any formal rules, but simply by the individuals’ decisions of where to move the pieces. The game places more emphasis on exchanging the collected French phrases which in turn provide no effects or outcomes, except for how the player responds emotionally. Bientôt l'été has many compelling ideas and concepts to share with players, unfortunately the manner in which they are presented is often near impossible to comprehend.
The reason that resulted in more time spent in the game’s world was its sheer beauty and odd sense of time and movement. The game’s bold visuals and stellar soundtrack created an atmospheric experience that few other games have been able to match. Ultimately, individuals will have to decide for themselves if the either the gameplay or presentation grasps their interest or curiosity to warrant an extended stay in the game’s virtual world.
No matter the fact that any actual goals or even a story are included, the gameplay of Bientôt l'été is a disjointed and obscure experience that never quite explains why individuals should “just be” as so eloquently phrased by the developers. The ultimate factor in how an individual enjoys the unique experienced offered in Bientôt l'été will be based solely on their acceptance and appreciation of its departure from the commonly-accepted video game norm of having to win or accomplish something before the credits roll.
Bientôt l'été is available now for both Windows and Mac.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Obscure gameplay and underlying concepts that are difficult to comprehend combine with a stunning presentation that ultimately result in a mixed experience. Bientôt l'été can technically be considered a video game by utilizing the medium, but relating the experience more to a conceptual piece of art or installation work would be more appropriate. However, those individuals seeking a video game experience outside of the norm shouldn't hesitate to visit the bold and unique world of Bientôt l'été.
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