December 19, 2016 10:00 AM | Thomas Faust
Alright, help me out here. I played Mi'pu'mi Games' narrative adventure game The Lion's Song last week, and I still don't know what exactly it is about. It can be read as a rumination on art and the creation thereof, a series of small tales about creativity and inspiration, or - if you don't want to dig too deep - as a cute romance from another era. What I do know is that it's one of the loveliest games I have played this year and, since the first episode is free, so should you.
In The Lion's Song, which will eventually consist of four episodes (two of which have already been released), we follow the lives of artists - a composer and a painter, respectively - in search of inspiration. Wilma escapes the busy streets of early 20th century Vienna in order to finish an important composition in the solitude of the Austrian Alps. Franz, however, starts his journey of self-discovery within Viennese society. In order to fully understand other people, he has to understand himself first.
Presented as branching (minimally interactive) point and click adventure vignettes with lovely art and music, these tales make important points without being overtly dramatic about it all. In fact, there's a lovely blend of subtle humor embedded here, and the characters - completely removed from our own reality and experiences - come across as relatable and genuinely charming, flaws and all.
Back to my initial problem: The Lion's Song is not about mastery, not about the destination or the finished work of art. It is all about the journey itself. There is this scene in the second episode where Franz' mentor-of-sorts, Gustav Klimt, tells the young painter not to reveal the creative process to people. Instead, successful art should rely on mastery to remain a mystery. But then, revealing the journey is exactly what the game does: it lets you in on the creative process without making blanket statements about art or life or whatnot. It allows you a brief glance behind the curtain in order to show you that the creation of art comes from all kinds of internal and external sources, from inspiration, talent, hard work, the world around you, and of course from deep within yourself. And this might be what it's about. Or maybe not. It's art we're talking about here, after all. You might come to a different conclusion.
It will be interesting to see what comes next. The upcoming episode deals with a mathematician, so I might have to re-evaluate everything I wrote here about art and whatnot. Maybe The Lion's Song is about something else entirely? This remains to be seen. In any case, the two existing episodes are little masterpieces on their own. Each one takes about an hour to play, so what are you waiting for?