I keep coming back to Devotionalia. It actually cropped up a lot earlier on my random shuffle, but every time I sit down to write a review, it just comes out as a jumble of thoughts, entirely inchoate and unformed.
Just stick to the facts, Ade. OK – this is a short choice game. I’ve played through at least a dozen times. I keep playing through almost religiously. I’m worried I’ve missed some text. In a way, this game reminds me of the works of Chandler Groover and Phantom Williams. It has a similar rich aesthetic. A surreal, haunting feel. A sense that there’s more hidden below the surface.
We play as a priest of a dying religion/cult in a fantastical world held beneath the sea below and above – whether this sea above is a literal ‘sea’ I’m still questioning. Our charge is to perform a daily ritual to the being Anjur-Bas, and it is this that forms the main mechanism of the game.
We can chose between a votive offering, a sacrifice, a prayer. Each has a number of options. With careful attention to the text, we can divine which of these options will be pleasing to the God. Alternatively, we can give it scant attention and just choose quickly – a religious obligation that has become rote – something to be got over with. Or we can deliver a ritual that pleases us – a supplication rather than a worship.
The outcome of this is an internal reflection by the protagonist. Belief is questioned, renewed, depending on the offering. Faith through strictured liturgy. If we’re waiting for proof, we’re going to be waiting a long time. For the reader, it can be a frustrating thing. We keep performing the rituals – we’re expecting something more. A moment of clarity – the hand of this God reaching down and saying ‘yes, here I am’. We are expecting to be rewarded for our continued interaction with the game with some form of revelation. Good luck with that.
Throughout the day, we have several tasks to accomplish. We are the guardian of waifs and strays who have washed up at the temple. We check that the “the appropriate number of heads and fins and tails” are present in their dormitory. It’s this type of statement that really elevates this prose. This fantastical World is not described in detail or explained. It is given in hints and asides. We fill in the gaps ourselves – it’s writing for the imaginative.
The interface matches the ambition of the prose. The music is atmospheric and appropriate. The aesthetics of the design are completely aligned to the game experience.
It’s something a little bit special, this. 10/10
n.b. Note to author if they read this : I found one problem in the text. I wouldn’t mention it, but it’s on the very very last line of the game and is a shame, given the quality of the preceding text – rot13’d – “Vg’f nyzbfg nf vs fbzrbar gb oernx guebhtu”. Vg frrzf gb or zvffvat gur ‘gelvat gb’. Gb trg gb guvf raqvat, V qvq gur ibgvir bssrevat, ynetr, jbbq, naqebtlabhf, or cnvagrq. Gura V qrfgeblrq vg ng gur nygne.