Paintings have a way of evoking the imagination and telling a story. Even if they are not realistic in nature. However, even the surrealism and fauvism paintings from the modern art movement captured moments, stories, and emotions. Look at a Salvador Dali or Edvard Munch and imagine being inside one of their paintings.
Now imagine what it is like to be in The Blue Soap Bottle by Joseph Cornell. A 20th century American surrealist. Actually, you can experience this Cornell painting plus more fantastic works from well known modern artists in the point and click game Nubla. A game developed by Gammera Nest in collaboration with the National Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza of Modern Art in Madrid, Spain.
In order to highlight the museum’s collection, the backgrounds and characters are in the style of modern art forms. Sometimes surreal other times with bold colors. One scene was a bit ominous and dark. Then again it is a reflection of the artists and art on display. For example, the inhabitants of Nubla look as though they stepped out of a Picasso or Ernst painting. Another featured artist. However, it is worth noting this game’s intention is not that of an education game but rather an appreciation of the museum’s art. Therefore, Nubla showcases the art using a story and solving puzzles. For one thing, these puzzles are used to unlock new areas by putting together and revealing each work of art.
While the puzzles are a part of the game, there is also a storytelling and adventure element. Our story begins with either a young girl or boy, players have a choice, alone in the museum. For the purpose of storytelling, we shall look at the girl’s adventure. Although alone from other people, she becomes confronted by a group of Nubla’s inhabitants. Who I call guides. They have come to the girl seeking help in reaching the Nubla.
Before embarking on the awaiting adventure, we must choose only one guide to follow. For example, I picked the adorable blue haired character. He seemed sad but I instantly became attached to him. With this in mind, being fond of a character is important and with the artistry and story of Nubla it is easy to get attached to the characters.
The guide is now ready to lead the girl on an adventure unlocking the museum’s paintings. At the start of the game all paintings are dark. The guide, therefore, must adventure into the paintings to solve puzzles. This in turn, brings the painting to light. Further exploration happens after the last chapter.
In order to accomplish his goal, the playable character enters a painting. At this stage you are trapped and must find an exit. Accordingly, the game directs the player to the correct painting. From here the player must solve the painting, usually a puzzle but also finding a key or assembling an object. This either unlocks a new area or allows the guide to re-enter the museum. In addition, along the way our guide will be collecting mementos and objects belonging to the paintings. It is also noteworthy that the paintings within the painting may talk to the guide, providing instructions on next steps. If, for instance, the objective is to repair a painting this in turn allows players to better understand the real painting.
Though the game provides clues on what to do next, along with other little guides, there are times when the player must think through the situation. However, the game is intuitive and not overly difficult. For example, one puzzle in the beginning has the player repeat a sequence of musical art. There is also the need to study the environment looking for objects and clues to puzzle solving. Other puzzles, for example, are putting together images in the right sequence, or aligning images. To this end, this game is about art and art is central to all puzzles.
Given these points, another notable element is the guide’s special abilities. For example, my little guy was able to float upward, which came in handy to overcome barriers, reach mementos and objects higher up.
Mementos are objects collected in game that allows the player to escape and reach Nubla. What is the Nubla, you just have to play the story to find out. Let me just say it is a very pleasant and beautiful ending.
As far as gameplay goes there are not many controls to remember. Because there is no tutorial, it is advisable to check out the the main menu for a list of controls. However, when in a painting a list of controls may be displayed. As this is for PC you have the option of using keyboard or controller. I stuck with keyboard, as it was an easy to control game. Mainly using normal movement keys and the grab button. Also, the game highlights interactive objects. You can also push or pull objects.
The dialogue is a key component. Not only to direct the player but tell the story. It is also brief dialogue and just enough to know what is going on. In addition, the dialogue and story keeps with the theme of art and creativity. A pleasant and intelligent experience.
As for the story, it goes by chapters and is fairly short. Even though it is not a lengthy game, Nubla is very satisfying in the end. Afterwards I came away with a greater appreciation for modern art. Though I do wish there was more in the way of background to the paintings. Even so, I am looking to learn more about modern art and the museum’s collection. This I feel is the true purpose of the game, as a presentation of art through story and puzzle solving. In this way we capture the inner life of each painting and reveal details not noticed through traditional methods. It is also just the beginning of the exploration of the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
What can I say about Nubla? It is an incredible, thoughtful, and beautiful game. I felt as though the developers took great care in providing an enriching and thought provoking game. Adding puzzles to the Nubla story was perfect. The accompanying instrumental music played a role in providing the game a calm and pleasant emotional experience. This in turn kept me in this incredible world.
Brilliant and creative, this game is a true masterpiece worthy of a modern art museum or any art museum. An emotional and intelligent game anyone can enjoy. In the end, Nubla is a video game that blends art appreciation and storytelling with puzzles and a simple gameplay to create a unique and memorable experience.
Though Nubla is played as a point and click video game, it is truly meant to be experienced. Like art is to be experienced and appreciated.