By Jason Rohrer
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The critically-acclaimed breakout-hit from art game designer Jason Rohrer. Passage is a tiny, touching, five-minute game about life.
"More than any game I've ever played, it illustrates how a game can be a fantastically expressive, artistic vehicle for exploring the human condition." -- Clive Thompson, Wired
"Passage may look primitive but it's an absolute pinnacle of videogame development." --Andy Chalk, The Escapist
"Portal is a fine game---nothing less than excellent... Passage is even better." --Nick Montfort, MIT
You can read an in-depth profile of Jason Rohrer, along with an extensive discussion of Passage, in Esquire Magazine's December 2008 "Genius" issue.
What's New in Version 3.1
Fixes an iPhone-specific bug that caused too many treasure chests to be empty.
The virtues and vitriol of diversity.
I am not going to bury the lead on my opinion of this game, I love it. Having said that I am sure if you are reading this opinions swing wildly in extremes. This isn't a game that has a "win" condition. That should be understood up front. This is a "game" that is trying to make a statement about life and choices. Some people see it as elitist, hipster, and pointless due to its' themes and lack of a "right" answer. Others consider thier lives differently after playig it because it forces them to reflect on thier own choices in a basic form. It's subjective as art should be. I know that all of the 1 star reviewers of this app just had thier heads explode when I used the A word, but art is never defined as a pierce of creative work that everybody enjoys equally. To be honest, the best thing to do is google the game, play it for free (twice really) and read the text that goes with it. If you like what played support the creator. If you hate it then you are out 12 minutes total for both plays and a quick read. I really enjoyed this experience and am glad to have tried it. After all. what else takes 15 minutes and has the potential to make you take stock of every major decision you have made in our finite lives?
It's 98% art, 2% game
If you look online, you'll find a devoted following for this "game." However, there are just as many people who hate it (myself included). I get what the author was trying to do (and I won't spoil it here). My interpretation is that it's more an emotional exercise and reflection than it is a game. But that's the point -- Passage is exactly as you interpret it to be. Apparently, many people find it to be an interesting thought experiment that evokes strong emotional responses. I didn't. Personally, I found it to be an interesting metaphor but not at all an interesting application nor game. If such a program moves someone to tears (as recounted by several players), I fear perhaps we've all become too sociopathic. I won't say it's not worth the $0.99, as it's apparently worth much more to many people. But for me personally, I found it to be a waste of five minutes and a dollar.
Not fun, not profound
There are two reasons you might want to play Passage: (1) You think it might be fun; (2) You think it might be artful and deep. Let me disabuse you of those hopes.
There is no question of it being fun—it is an unremarkable, thin, tedious game by any measure, and the iOS controls make an already clunky interface downright unpleasant. You will not hear even its fans describe it as fun.
Is it art? Well, there does seem to be a certain class of people who find this game profound and meaningful. It is—I'll grant you—one of the very few games that deals with the tragic, ominous, and inevitable nature of death. But this treatment is quite cursory and minimal. It's hard for me to imagine anyone seriously "tearing up"—as some have reported doing—as the 5-minute game reaches its end. The road to this game's "deep insights" is so tedious and banal, that whatever delight you might gain from experiencing its postage-stamp portrait of life, memory, marriage, material pursuit, and death is hardly worth the time it takes to reach it.
If this is the height of game art, then the state of game art is pretty dismal. No surprise there.
In any case, this app is not worth your $.99. Download it for free online. Be delighted or bemused—your choice. Pay for it and you'll regret it.