Now for my first Videogame review, I will be reviewing The Beginners Guide. Get it?! Other than the title however, this is probably not the best game to start off with. The Beginners Guide is unique, not only as a concept but through the commentary it offers on many elements within the videogame industry. If you’re looking for a powerful narrative experience with a lot to say, The Beginners Guide is a must, but to many others this will be a pretentious, difficult experience.
The Beginners Guide is the latest creation of Davey Wreden, the man behind The Stanley Parable. The Beginners Guide draws a lot from The Stanley Parable, including the meta interpretation of games, a first person experience through an enclosed environment, and an omniscient narrator. Unlike Stanley however, Guide is a very linear experience which directly funnels the player through a series of random and abstract environments. All the while, Wreden’s assured voice permeates through the experience, explaining what you are ‘playing’ and where it derives from. Ultimately the story told is about a man simply called Coda, and how making short games was an outlet for him to escape from his anxiety and depression.
Its a fascinating way to tell a story, and touches on many powerful emotional beats and twists. Not only that, but the story comments on recurring ideas about videogames themselves – the relationship between player and designer, the interpretation of games and the experience of the player itself. Its very thoughtful and well-told, although I would criticise the end by being a bit too clear-cut. Personally I think having a more ambiguous ending would have been better for the experience of the player, simply as it would force them to piece it all together. Simply put, Guide does sometimes rely too heavily on showing rather than telling, which is not a particularly stellar storytelling technique.
The entire game also drips with gorgeous design and music. The little creations you go through are varied and vast, but still tightly constructed and the music along with Wreden’s voice leads to a palpable atmosphere of discovery and emotion. However, your enjoyment of the game doesn’t rely on the story or the atmosphere. Its dependant on your expectations – what you expect the game to be, and what you hope to take away from that experience. Experience is probably a better word for The Beginners Guide than game. At only 90 minutes long, this is more of a lightly interactive movie, and if you’re hoping for anything less you’re going to be disappointed – but if you are looking for a purely well-told story, powerful emotional resonance and commentary on interesting issues I cannot recommend this game highly enough.
Indie Gamers: Must-play
Casual Gamers: Meh
Harcore Gamers: Recommended