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Idea – Review

Idea takes the physics puzzle platformer and gives it a thought provoking backdrop and a beautiful graphical style. In this world you play as a thought bubble, endlessly rolling down a map of 4k done footage from Europe. Your bubble cannot get stuck or waste time though as if you stay still in a picture frame for too long, your thought is lost. Idea is a gaming essay on the impermanence of ideas, thought and trailblazing. It’s also got a fun social element to it too.

You’ll want to avoid the car park… or do you? Idea will keep you guessing with its interconnectivity.

Firstly, Idea’s drone footage is gorgeous. From cars on roundabouts to tractors in a field to snowy village huts and industrial dump lands – the world of Idea is beautifully constructed. The world is interconnected so if you move off one specific path or road, you’ll get the same next map each time so over time you learn various routes and map out your travel plans in your head. Your thought bubble always drops downward on the screen but it also interacts with walls, buildings, cars, bikes and mechanical things. This means a well timed boing can send you in a different direction to where you had planned. To course correct you are allowed to click a few bursts of energy to send the thought bubble in a new direction. You’ll use this to get out of weird nooks, dead ends and to save yourself from doom. Doom comes quickly in Idea as not only does each screen have a timer (lasting anywhere between 3 to 15 seconds) but your overall run is time limited too. Every action matters and whilst this will cause stress, its also the point Idea is making.

Many screens have multiple routes. You can ride the train tracks if you know how, or take multiple road routes instead.

When you do get stuck, and you will repeatedly, your idea is left behind and you get to write a message for other players. Your message then appears in other gamers runs and theirs in yours. This gives you an extra challenge to collect as many of other peoples lost ideas as you play and aim for one of multiple endings – where again you get to leave a message. After each run, and in the main menu, you can read the messages you’ve found and see how many times your own messages have been viewed. The messages are a real mix of comedic, thoughtful, confused and game tips. I love thought experiments like this and its a simple, low effort one that reminds me of the game Sunlight. In that game you left messages at the end for others to read on your gravestone and whilst this is less impactful, its more playful and integrated into the gameplay better.

The transition from industrial to nature feels cohesive and this screen has so many routes you could take… Where next?

Idea is one of those games that will click for the artsy crowd. I am definitely one of those and found myself diving in again and again to search for all the secrets and interactions. The drone footage is superb and with a semi-decent PC, you’ll be bombing about various clicks with zero slowdown. I can see some players getting a bit frustrated at some of the very tight time constraints on some screens, and it isn’t the longest game in the world either. However, with its social aspect you can return back after a few days and have a quick 10 minutes bouncing around and catch lots of new messages to read. This is the type of game that truly defines what indie gaming does well. Take an abstract concept, do something unusual with it and create something quietly magical. Games like Idea are why I’m still buzzing about the gaming industry today. It’s not for the giants out there, its for games like this. Give this experiment a whirl.

Idea is out now on Steam. I bought it on day one and have zero regrets.

Final Thoughts
Idea's brevity and style captivate me every time I send a new thought bubble tumbling around the beautiful drone footage. This abstract game highlights the reasons why I continue to create content about games today. Delightful.
The 4k drone footage works a treat.
Social aspect is light enough to enjoy without it feeling overbearing.
The surprises, secrets, alternative endings and discovering a new thing you bounce off of is very rewarding.
Experimental game design done right.
Lovely heartfelt symphonic sounding soundtrack.
It is brief and require a fair bit of early game repetition

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