I sometimes find myself browsing the cheap-to-free section on Steam to see what comes up. It can often feel like you are trudging through mud when it comes to Steam games. However, occasionally, you do find a gem. For me, I found this beautiful little game called Mandagon. A short, free but wonderful indie game by Blind Sky Studios. One that works so well, you might be a little sad that it’s over so quickly.
This is a rather heartwarming story. We follow the journey of a father who appears in the form of a stone totem. His story is a tragic one as we learn about sacrifice, life and death. Throughout the game, the player learns that the father /totem is trying to save his daughter. It becomes clearer as you play that the totem has given up something. From what I could understand, this was a story about a father who gave his daughter an organ to save her life. But, in doing so, sacrificed his. The story is told through talking totems throughout the land. Despite being a short story, Mandagon really is quite an enjoyable one to follow.
You can use either your keyboard or a controller. Since this is a simple 2D platformer, the game play is far from complex. That is not to say it isn’t fun though. There are a couple of interesting elements that make this game quirky. First of all, there is only really one area that this game takes place in. Although not overly large, it is relatively easy to get lost. The next interesting element is collecting the tablets. Your little totem is required to find tablets to place into blocks that then open up a large end-game door. You have to find six tablets in total. However, the only way to view the map is to find the blocks that you place the tablets into. Again, nothing too complex but definitely a fun way of making the game a bit more of a challenge.
And that’s about it. You are able to activate ‘turbo lifts’ that boost you up to higher places. There is even a couple of statues that, once activated, help you to levitate. All these little things are what makes this game enjoyable to play. Despite getting lost a couple of times, and occasionally falling off platforms, it was a fun experience.
I have only one word to describe the graphics in Mandagon. Beautiful. They may only be pixel graphics and in 2D but that does not take away from its art style. The colour palette is soft and appeasing to the eye. You truly feel like you are in the Tibetan mountains far from any life. Even the background art is beautiful. Occasionally I found myself stopping just to admire my surroundings. There may not be much to look at but it is certainly not boring. In my opinion, the graphics are the best part of this game and I would definitely play it again just to experience them again.
There is very little to be said about the sound as there is not much sound to go with the game. Aside from the odd sound effect, there is very little. There is music of a sort but it is barely noticeable and I think perhaps that was on purpose. I believe that the developers did not want to take away from the atmosphere. By not having some grand orchestral soundtrack, you feel at peace constantly. This experience is meant to be a relaxed one therefore the sounds need to reflect that. It may be lacking but it worked for this game.
Since Mandagon is only a short little game, there is not much replayability. I suppose if you missed one of the achievements, you may want to go back to play it again. Other than that, most people will play this once and never go back to it. However, that being said, I think this is a game that you will always remember.
Mandagon is a beautiful, calm and enjoyable game. The heartwarming story mixed with the bittersweet end makes it quite and experience. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it for the forty minutes that it took me to complete. For a free-to-play indie game on Steam, this one is definitely a diamond in the rough. Perhaps, one day, I will go back and play it again to soak up that experience again. Suffice to say, I look forward to seeing what else this developer will produce in the future.
- Storyline – 75%
- Gameplay – 80%
- Graphics – 90%
- Sound – 70%
- Replayability – 50%