“He is breathing heavily against the railing. Fire once more and he tumbles over. Your character walks to the railing and begins to smoke.”
The Last Night is a small game made last year for the Cyberpunk Jam. The challenge: over the course of ten days create a game set in the 80’s cyberpunk genre and more specifically, inspired by and image provided by the organizers. Brothers Tim and Adrien Soret of OddTales accepted and in six days created a game from this:
What they came out with was a simple, side-scrolling adventure game. You’re in a futuristic city with the rain pouring down around you, the buildings tinted a murky green and neon lights plastered everywhere. In the short 2-5 minutes it takes to play, The Last Night creates an impressionist vision of what it is to stand inside a cyberpunk world. There is no worldbuilding, no complicated set of rules to internalize. This is a pure. amalgamation of clichés and genre tropes. Being derivative is normally a detriment to any work trying to stand out, but here it’s an asset as nothing has to be explained and atmosphere is allowed to take over.
Opening the game in your browser and allowing the soundscape to wash over you is all you need to understand the tone and feel of the game. The low thumping bass alongside the steady synth notes of the electronica track is underscored by the ever present, pattering of rain. The theme may stop once the game begins, but the rain never does. However, that is the purpose of the game. To evoke in visual and action the common understanding and mood of these sounds.
The plot is simple — so simple I hesitate to call it a plot. You are someone, not even named or labeled, who is handed an assignment and a gun. Go to this location and kill this target. Who are you? Who is your client? Who is the target? Why are you doing this? None of it matters.
It’s true, calling it a plot is overly generous; really it’s a premise. Thanks to films like Blade Runner, The Matrix, Total Recall – anime like Akira and Ghost in the Shell – books like Neuromancer and Snow Crash, we understand the basic conflict and broad players inherently. We can fill in any of the unnecessary details. Not with specifics, but vague notions cultivated by exposure to the base themes and archetypes that arise over and over in this specific genre. The goal is a muguffin, whose only purpose is to drive us across a few screens to soak in the aesthetic feeling of the world.
The backgrounds are gorgeous. The confluence of these colors and these shapes give the impression of a great, grungy metropolis beyond the 2D plane your character can walk in. The flying cars tell of a futuristic world and a busy one at that. All the colors in the outside world are muted, save the neon signs that stand out against the backdrop even more.
The characters are formed in the elongated pixel style popularized by Sword & Sworcery back in 2011. It makes them look more human than the traditional square, blocky pixel configuration. Other than your “fixer” and your “handler” there are a handful of citizens on the streets and two robots guard the entrance to the nightclub. But it’s when you enter the club the effect of the congregation of the masses takes hold. Walking though the crowd on the dance floor can be a slightly disorienting as you pass behind and in front of, in equal measure, the long row of diverse figures bumping and grinding, smoking, drinking and otherwise enjoying themselves. The more flashily dressed people along with the bright flashing lights of the club in contrast to your character’s rather drab attire serve to distract from where are on screen for a moment or two. Cyberpunk generally features alienated outsiders. Here we see it manifested from metaphor into a visual reality.
Eventually you come upon your target. You kill his guard and then fire on him as the two girls he was with cower. You follow him out onto the balcony he was thrown on. He is breathing heavily against the railing. Fire once more and he tumbles over. Your character walks to the railing and begins to smoke. So is the ending motions of a conflict we don’t know, but equally understand it. We don’t know if we’re the hero taking out a corrupt, individual or a hit-man killing a for a purpose ultimately above our pay grade. Either way we see a man unconcerned for the deed and a world all to used to it. The camera pans down the buildings and a new song starts.
Tim & Adrien Soret are turning The Last Night into a longer game with more to it. The new iteration will have more detailed art, a larger more open world, varied interactions and an actual cast of characters through which a story can be told. That sounds great and I look forward to it. Yet, as is, The Last Night stands on its own as tone piece and totem to the cyberpunk genre.
More About the Artists:
- Check the game out: http://timsoret.itch.io/the-last-night
- Story: Danny Salfield Wadeson, Tim & Adrien Soret
- Music: Joe Kataldo, Laurent Lozano, & Perturbator
- Code: Kamran Khan
- Follow Tim on Twitter: https://twitter.com/timsoret
- Follow Adrien on Twitter: https://twitter.com/adriensoret
- Learn more about OddTales: http://oddtales.net/