May 19, 2016 12:35 PM | John Bridgman
Released on mobile devices recently, Liyla & the Shadows of War is a very simple game, based on actual events of war in Gaza. Made by Rasheed Abueidah, this mobile game is powerful and heartfelt, and in every way worth your time to play.
The game combines a silhouette aesthetic with some smooth animation to create something that is beautiful while the premise rapidly darkens as you progress. While not overly detailed, the silhouettes are clear enough that you can always be sure of what you're looking at, and what things are not shown in darkness are all the better highlighted for the aesthetic direction. The music too fits the themes of the game, and overall the experience is greatly enhanced by this beautiful yet mournful direction.
As for gameplay, the game is divided into several screens, each with some basic touchscreen interaction. Some screens involve you solving platforming puzzles, which are never too challenging, while others are more about timing jumps. There's some honest variety in these for such a short game, and the results of each screen make experiencing the game that much more effective at conveying its message.
You control the father of a young Palestinian girl (the titular Liyla) as war breaks out in Gaza. You begin by finding your wife and Lilya, and after doing so, proceed to attempt to evacuate the warzone together. As you make your escape, the game has you navigate screens that show some of the things that Palestinians had to go through in the Gaza war. It is genuinely haunting and I applaud the direction of the game's developers as they made this work.
As of this writing, the game is not listed as a game in the iOS store, with the claim made it was not considered to be a game, but instead an App or News. There is nothing about this game that begins to warrant any claims of "not a game". Games are an art form and difficult subjects need to be allowed to exist and be distributed as games. Hopefully this unfortunate decision by Apple can be reversed quickly to allow this game to be played by more people.
Liyla and the Shadows of War is a game that costs you nothing to play and will spend a few minutes of your time to complete. It is memorable, heartbreaking, and absolutely worth the time investment it takes, though be warned it delves into very heavy things and acts perpetuated during wartime.