[Guest reviewer Colin Brown of Backlog Journey looks at the games in The Graduation Bundle, available now from the IndieGames co-created site, Indie Royale.]

Whoa. Let me just... ok. Let's try to talk about The Void, and also let me emphasize the try part. You can't really explain The Void, because there are so many things going on at once. It's not a mindless game you can just dive into, and playing it is going to take some learning and practice. When was the last time you played  a game where the manual was requiring reading? Because in this case, it took me a manual, a guide and a bunch of forum surfing to figure out exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It's certainly unforgiving, and you'll probably have to start from scratch two or three times before you save your own soul.

But what exactly is The Void? Well, the Indie Royale page calls it an action adventure. I'm going to go in a slightly different direction and call it an avant-garde Harvest Moon. You see, colour is the most important thing in the Void. It's your health, your stat boosts, your attack method, your puzzle solving tools and your seeds. There's never enough of it, so you need to explore little tiny pocket dimensions known as chambers to get more, and also visit gardens and infuse colour into trees to grow more for later.


But perhaps I'm ahead of myself. In The Void, your character is a lost soul on the brink of death and oblivion and other such nastiness. A voice calls out to you, and you wash up on the shores of the chamber of a Sister. She enigmatically explains the importance of colour and how to properly travel the Void, and from there you go on a macabre adventure to restore your life, all while getting caught up in an age old hierarchy of Brothers and Sisters. This requires investigating chambers, which are dark and surreal rooms with an overwhelmingly sinister art style, fighting predators, which are terrifying golems and monsters, navigating the Void, a map between each chamber that eats at your colour and also the only screen where time passes, and collecting the aforementioned colour. However, things don't really stay so simple, and the open ended structure allows you to tackle goals and bosses in many orders. You're also on a strict time limit, and when the cycles run out the Void will vanish forever.

The base mechanics are definitely confusing, and you'll want to restart a few times once you realize just how limited your colour resources are. In all honesty, the mechanics are probably why the game has never really risen above a small cult following. However, the beautifully haunting art design, the fantastic soundtrack (included in the bundle bonus materials) and the creepy atmosphere make the exploration segments oddly enchanting, even if I was puzzled by the overarching metagame. The game never uses overt scares or jumpy moments, but playing with the lights out and headphones on can be wonderfully creepy and spine tingling.

I suppose the easiest way to review the title is to explain my own experience with it. I went from an initial period of dislike and annoyance with the game, and closed it down fully prepared to write "it stinks!" and move on. After reading the manual and learning a little bit more about the world of the Void, I went back to the game and realized there was a pretty deep system at work here. The Void is certainly not a game that will ever jump out and draw you in. Like the lost soul in the game itself, you need to work hard to discover the secrets and the rules of the world before the game will click in in your head. Still, I would say the work is worth it, because the world of the Void is hauntingly beautiful to explore.

[The Void joins Dead Pixels, LaserCat, The Ship, and more available now in Indie Royale's Graduation Bundle.]