Essays on Empathy – Spoiler-Free Review

Essays on Empathy is an indie game from Spanish studio Deconstructeam, released in May 2021 for Steam. It’s a concept that’s not very easy to describe. More than a game, it is a collection of interactive tales with an incredible and visceral narrative power, which brings us several touching stories.

I must confess: my first impressions of Essays on Empathy were not exactly positive. I had a hard time figuring out what to do in the first platform/metroidvania-style game: Underground Hangovers. You are a miner belonging to a group that finds out the company responsible for exploring the planet Urult abandoned them.

I didn’t get used to the controls, and I didn’t understand the objective either, even though I made an effort to find out. After a few tries, I gave up without realizing if the problem was me or the game.

Underground Hangovers

I moved on to the next game, and my opinion completely changed. And that happened with every game I played. I quickly discovered that these tales are transcendent experiences, though I connected more to some than to others.

Supercontinental Ltd. was my favorite game for most of the time (until I played De Tres al Cuarto). You play as a spy in a futuristic setting and, using a device, simulate voices to gather information and reach our goal. You have to go on dialing phone numbers the old-fashioned way and collect clues for the next step. Supercontinental Ltd. reminded me of the legendary Where in the world is Carmen San Diego, for finding and connecting clues.

Supercontinental Ltd.

De Tres al Cuarto  presents a comedian duo performing in a bar each night: Garza and Bonachera. With your card dack, you have to make sure the joke quality is high enough to make more money (and self-esteem). You have the following cards:
– Blank: avoid these cards at all cost. Garza gets nervous, slips in his own words, and loses points.

– Punch: the perfect punchline that gets you a total score.

– Poor: a weaker joke that gives you half the score.

– Build: accumulate points with the next card, lengthening the jokes.

It’s an intimate and fun game with the beauty of anti-heroic and relatable characters. Between shows, you explore the characters’ relationship and past through the activities you choose after each shift at the bar.

De Tres al Cuarto

Pixel Art is one of my favorite styles, as it reminds me of the old games that introduced me to the gaming world. The characters, locations, and animations are stunning and bring out that retro nostalgia. The music, by Paula Ruiz (fingerspit), is terrific and plays a crucial role in bringing together all the aspects that make up each game.

All games address modern societal themes such as depression, violence, or discrimination. Although they are short (from 10 to 90 minutes), several of them deserve to be played again, such as De Tres al CuartoEngolasters January 2021 , or Eternal Home Florist. In addition to the games, you can also check design concepts for each game and watch interviews with studio members.

You are warned in advance that these games resulted from game jams, so they have basic controls and interfaces, all in the name of art. It’s a shame the lack of game-saving mechanisms. Considering that Essays on Empathy is aimed at an adult audience, it’s expected that they don’t always have time to play all at once. Still, because they are such out-of-the-box experiences and have such potential, the games deserved to be refined to be the best they could be.

Eternal Home Florist

The short stories/minigames are invitations to be part of something bigger and reflect on themes so close to many of us. Although with some limitations, these essays are worth diving into.

Game list:

  1. Underground Hangovers
  2. Supercontinent Ltd
  3. Behind Every Great One
  4. Eternal Home Florist
  5. The Bookshelf Limbo
  6. Zen and the Heart of Transhumanism
  7. Engolasters January 2021
  8. 45 A Vivid Life
  9. Dear Substance of Kin
  10. De Tres al Cuarto
 
Nota: in partnership with  Moshbit Gaming.
Engolasters January 2021

82%

The short stories/minigames are invitations to be part of something bigger and reflect on themes so close to many of us. Although with some limitations, these essays are worth diving into.

Other Posts you may like:

Newsletter

Did you like this post? Join now for the latest news and exclusive tips!

Share Post

Queen of Roses – Quick Review

Queen of Roses, by Briar Boleyn was published on April 15th 2023. @martimcwrite Here are my thoughts on Queen of Roses by

Green Hell VR – PSVR2 Review

Green Hell (Incuvo, Creepy Jar) was initially released in 2019 for PC. Later, the virtual reality (VR) version was developed for Meta

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Picture of Marti Silvestre

Marti Silvestre

aka Marti McWrite

▸Writer
▸ Narrative Explorer
▸ Literary and Gaming Analyst

Other posts you may like

Newsletter

Join now for the latest news and exclusive tips!