Part of the appeal of indulging in art and entertainment is offering your own interpretation on the subjects, themes and underlying concepts. That may sound pretentious, but I stand by my statement. In movies, books and video games, it’s not uncommon for the creators to slip in hidden meanings that aren’t obvious at a cursory glance.
I’m not necessarily talking about high-end culture, either. Even Mario has its fair share of theories and fan readings. Concepts that are bizarre and abstract – such as the world Mario inhabits – are rife for interpretation, but we often oversee them in favour of a narrative that’s relatively straightforward. The 8-bit plumber may spend a large portion of his life diving into giant pipes and giving anthropomorphic mushrooms a concussion, but we know his motives, so we just go along with it.
When it comes to abstract concepts and scope for interpretation, Alpha Wave Entertainment’s Euclidean is about as bizarre as a video game can get without bordering on the absurd. With no obvious goal or outlining story arc, it’s a concept that requires the player to risk insanity in an unreal world where everything can kill you.
Euclidean is “a game of geometric horror” and a descent “into madness,” and that’s a pretty succinct way to describe it to be honest. It has a dream-like quality about it and audio and visuals that creep into your darkest thoughts. If you’ve ever had a dream where you’re falling slowly, that is Euclidean in a nutshell. Each level starts you off in what appears to be an underwater realm where shapes and horrors come together. As you fall deeper down into each level’s abyss, cuboid creatures swim by beneath your skeletal feet (yes, you appear to take on the role of a glowing skeleton).
The object of each level is to reach the beacon at the bottom of these watery caverns, using your movement keys to traverse the dangers that lie beneath. You are confused and alone, save for the droning voice in your head that almost seems to taunt you in slow, Saw-esque one-liners that fragment your mind and confuse you further.
The game is as slow as can be, but surprisingly, you don’t have time to stop and think, or smell the geometric roses. As you sink down to the bottom of whatever pit you’re in, avoiding the creatures that swim by almost oblivious to your existence, your mocking companion suggests that your mission (whatever it may be) is ultimately fruitless.
“You should not be here,” it growls in your head as you progress down further and further, forever wondering where you are, what you’re doing here and who you are. What does it all mean? Is it a metaphor for something? Life? Death? Is it a dream? There are no answers here. Only questions.
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Euclidean takes the concept of a horror game and presents a nightmare world which only your darkest subconscious could possibly dream up. As a concept, it’s deep and possibly complex depending on what you discover about it. But gameplay wise, it doesn’t get any simpler.
Aside from WASD controls to slowly drift your neon skeletal form out of harm’s way and mouse look to internalize the visuals, there is also an option to ‘phase.’ Pressing E shifts you into what appears to be an alternate version of the world you’re in for a few seconds (like you need that headache!), which allows you to pass safely through enemies.
Actually, it’s a little unfair to call them enemies. They are the creatures that inhabit this realm. You are the stranger lost in their world. You are the interloper. It’s no wonder your guided voice is unhappy with your presence.
Visually, Euclidean looks rather pretty in an I-can’t-see-five-feet-in-front-of-me kind of way. You’ll see the floating rocks and creatures loom below you, giving you just a few moments to adjust your angle. Lightning flashes intermittently throughout, illuminating the world for a split second. It’s not a game that’s going to inspire awe in terms of how it looks, but Alpha Wave have allowed for full virtual reality headset. While I only played the game through a regular monitor, one can assume that playing through an Oculus Rift will add a whole new level of terrifying immersion for the player.
Sound plays a key role in the game as well. The haunting voice of your invisible oppressor compliments the hum and boom of the non-diegetic music. The audio is the game’s most prominent feature and it’s used extremely effectively to give you a constant state of unease and dread. Trust me, it will absolutely not allow you to be alone with your thoughts.
Euclidean is not a long game by any stretch. I managed to finish it in just over an hour and that was with plenty of death sequences. It may be short (nine levels in total), but it’s also quite difficult. Much of the avoiding and manoeuvring through the increasingly difficult levels is almost like guesswork, given your short range of vision. It’s not entirely frustrating though, unless you have perma-death on and have to start from scratch (hint: don’t do that unless you’re sadistic).
Currently Euclidean is on sale over on Steam for £2.20 (around $3.30 US), and it’s definitely worth picking up for an hour of haunting visuals and a moody concept that will bring out the inner nihilist in all who play it.
This review is based on a PC copy of the game, which was provided to us.
Euclidean couldn't be more hauntingly puzzling and bizarre if David Lynch himself had been involved in the production.