Your Moment of Zen
Calm, quiet, serene, and dark. These are the best words to describe Mandagon, a free game available on the Steam store that was released in 2016. In a world based on Tibetan Theology and Philosophy according to the game’s page on steam, this is a spiritual game with a deep story hidden just beneath the surface. Mandagon offers a relaxing platformer, filled with interesting dynamics, things to find, and a really fitting art style that gives the game an extra level of polish.
When first booting up the game you go through a small tutorial, a level that feels very similar to the first level in Super Mario Brothers 2 (USA) except in reverse, instead of descending a hill, you are climbing it. While climbing you have to find a traversable path from overlapping platforms. After the tutorial, the whole game is given to you, a much larger map is included and there are several new things to do to travel around the map. You are tasked with finding the 6 pendants around the map to unlock the door. And as you travel, you meet these different statues that tell you the story, one that involves, love, sacrifice, and loss.
I was most surprised by the story because of how small the game was. Because the gameplay felt like a tech demo, I expected the story to be a similar testing of the developer, however it was not the case. As I explored the world more, often times I found myself looking for the statues with story more than I would the actual items to progress the story. Ultimately it felt like the right call because of how short it was, acting more like a very short 3 act play rather than a long opera. The entire game can be beaten in an hour if you are messing around in it and play slowly like I do. It can be beaten quicker though.
While this game plays like other indie darlings Gone Home and Journey, the length is the biggest issue for me, it felt like just as I was starting to get really invested into the game, the game was over. While this by no means is the worst problem a game can have, there is a fine line between leaving the player wanting more, and giving a feeling that there wasn’t enough. Ultimately I think that the experience is self contained enough that it falls on the side of leaving the player wanting more. I wasn’t disappointed with what I played, I was just upset that there wasn’t more to play. The mechanics and gameplay were all tight and felt fun to play. the only thing that needs to happen is expanding the world and allowing the gameplay to flow naturally. It felt like the game was almost constrained to this small world, seeing it fully fleshed out and built upon should be the most important thing the developers work on for the sequel.
Overall, Mandgon is a good game, one that I definitely recommend. The gameplay is fun, the story is deep, and the unique art-style combined with the peaceful music playing in the background creates a truly one of a kind experience that will stick out in my memory for a long time, I just really wish there was more content. That’s why I give Mandagon an 8 out of 10, and I am really looking forward to the sequel!
That’s just what I think though, let me know what you think down below! And be sure to Like, Comment, and Subscribe for more BYOG.