Cue music. Cue birdsong. Location: A park bench on
a beautiful summerís day. Scene: Two best friends,
Amber and Fio, enjoy a day out together doing
nothing more taxing than feeding the birds.
Unfortunately, this idyllic situation is about to be
shattered by a piece of devastating news. Fio has a
terminal illness and death is about to rip apart a
friendship that has lasted since childhood; twenty-five
is much too young to die. And no, itís not fair, but it is
reality. Death does not discriminate, one bad hand
and itís all over. Surely, this cannot happen to such a
beautiful person - but it does.
And Fio is gone.
This is an Interesting premise, no doubt about that,
but is the subject matter too dark? Playing adventure
games is supposed to be entertaining. Itís supposed
to be fun. Right? Eternally Us has just five locations
and a similar number of puzzles, and that information
is certainly not going to raise collective pulse rates.
Even a novice player should be able to complete the
whole thing in well under an hour. So, is it worth
hitting the download button?
Oh, yes. Most definitely, unequivocally - yes.
This story is about understanding grief and how to
come to terms with the ensuing emotions. Somebody
once said, the only thing guaranteed in life - is death.
So, letís step through the five screens and see where
they lead. In the first screen it is summertime; the
world is bright and life is worth living. But in this
game, nothing is ever what it seems; even the
puzzles have a meaning. To progress you have to
feed a single bird, a bird that is no longer part of the
flock. It is isolated - like Amber. Solve this puzzle and
death will appear in the guise of a malevolent, redeyed
spirit, and Amberís journey will begin.
The second screen is a depressing, rain swept
rooftop. The puzzle is simple enough; Amber must
find the key and open the door. But solving this
puzzle is not about gaining an object; itís about
understanding human nature and defining emotional
responsibility. Every action has a reaction. Listen to
the two spirits when they speak, every word is
relevant. Look beyond the obvious. Seek the truth - it
is within you.
The third screen is probably the most difficult to
negotiate because the purpose is not immediately
obvious. Amber finds herself trapped in a swamp. You
must disturb the two trees in the swamp and allow her
to ask the questions. Without dialogue, she cannot
progress on her journey. She wants something, but
nobody has what she wants. It is an exercise in futility
because she asks for the impossible. Her feet can
take her everywhere - and nowhere. Dust to dust,
ashes to ashes.
Amber arrives in the fourth screen from above and
lands in a heap at the feet of death, who teases her.
Why has she learnt so little? Why does she persist in
continuing this futile journey? It is now winter and
snow covers the ground. Everything is chilled. Bleak.
Hopeless. A locked gate bars the only exit. Amber
must find the key that not only opens the gate, but
also dissipates the darkness within her soul. To solve
this puzzle she must wait. Patience, cold, cold heart,
the answer is in your own hands.
The fifth screen opens in the fall. Autumn. A time of
change. Rebirth. Acceptance. Solve the puzzle, which
involves a squirrel and an acorn, and a cut scene will
provide a resolution. Everything Amber has done in
the previous four screens will now make sense; her
journey is complete. She may not want to hear the
brutal truth, but at least she now understands it - and
so do we.
Ben Chandler designed and drew the graphics for this
game and they are stunning. Each beautifully crafted
scene adds a sense of depth to the narrative, slowly
drawing the player into Amberís world. The visual
effects, rain, snow, falling leaves, drift magically
across the screen with jaw-dropping clarity. It is no
surprise that this game won the AGS Mags
competition for April 2010. Also included in the
download is the file WINSETUP. Tick the box run in a
window to avoid any resolution problems. There is
also an option to select the graphics driver and filter
of your choice should you encounter problems with
the default setting.
When you listen to the subtle sounds in this game,
birdsong, falling rain, soothing music, you might
imagine that it took an office full of professional
programmers and musicians to produce these effects.
And youíd be wrong. Stand up and take a bow Steven
Poulton who programmed and scored the whole
thing. The music, a simple melody used sparingly in a
couple of scenes, adds a haunting quality to the
whole production. A perceived weakness in games
like this is usually the voice acting, which can range
from the ridiculous to the laughable. No such thing
here. The voice acting is exceptional and blends
seamlessly into the production.
The game controls are uncomplicated. The left
mouse button allows Amber to use things; the right
mouse button allows her to examine things. When
she picks up an item, it goes to the inventory. Move
the mouse to the top of the screen to access
inventory items. If only all games were as simple.
There are also options to save, load and quit.
I couldnít find a single fault with this game. Yes, itís
short. Yes, it has limited game play, but it delivers.
Eternally Us is about dealing with the realities of life
and death, and thatís something none of us can
avoid. Iím sure Hollywood could take this story and
turn it into a two-hour tearjerker. I hope they donít; a
short animated film would suffice. In the meantime,
the game is free and is available for download from