Review

9.03m Review

  • Game release: September 24, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

In mourning.

The most lasting monument that will be built to honor me is likely to be a simple gravestone with my name and dates of birth and death etched into it. A tombstone is an enduring memorial, but it's also an impersonal one. It's difficult to express the wonder and the turmoil of a single human life with a single slab of granite and a bouquet of flowers resting at its base.

9.03m seeks--but ultimately fails--to honor memories in a way a simple monument cannot. It is an interactive memorial for the precious souls lost in 2011 when a powerful tsunami devastated Japan's eastern coast. It does not depict the lives of known victims, nor does it present a solemn list of names on which to pontificate. Instead, it leads you across a tranquil beach in first-person perspective, where glowing markers lead you to dark silhouettes that represent lives cut short. As you approach, the shadowy figures dissipate, replaced with precious items that embody the joy, the youth, and the love that were washed away in the destructive deluge. The first figure: a young boy who vanishes, and is then substituted with a soccer ball, which in turn erupts in a flash of luminous particles, leaving a butterfly that flutters ahead, guiding you to the next shadow.

This 10-minute journey uses emotionally manipulative audiovisuals to make its impact. The sky, the sand, the ocean, and even the sun are infused with an indigo hue, initially lulling you into a serene melancholy underscored by the hushed roar of waves lapping at the shore. A maudlin piano soundtrack creates momentary dissonance with suspended chords, then gives way to relaxed thirds--a simple, proven method of inviting quiet contemplation. Each cherished object you examine (a music box, an engagement ring, and so forth) brings to mind an individual who will never dream again, yet each butterfly seems to emblematize the victim's soul, the game implying in its cliched conclusion that the spirits of the lost live on.

You might call 9.03m a form of interactive poetry, though its final message is more "Hallmark card" than "heartfelt eulogy." It is undoubtedly committed to its manipulation; the gentle camera movements, glittering waves, and hazy visuals want to comfort you, to embrace you. And in some sense, 9.03 works, in the way a Thomas Kinkaide painting works, or a Stephenie Meyer novel works. It has a shallow allure that allows you to use words like "pretty" and "pleasant" to describe it. But the game's laudable sentiment is an empty facsimile of grief and hope, rather than an honest expression of those emotions. Just as a tombstone is too dry and solemn to properly commemorate the tumult of a human life, 9.03m is too hollow to be a respectful tribute, and never uses player interaction in any meaningful way.

9.03m thus has no more to offer than would a pretty landscape drawing dedicated to the tragedy's victims. It's hard to fault the developer's intentions, and I appreciate the game's tranquil color palette and its pensive atmosphere. In a different context, 9.03m might have been a lovely trifle--but the lives snuffed out in 2011, and the survivors that mourn them, deserve more than just a trifle.

The Good
Hushed, melancholy atmosphere
The Bad
Trivializes its weighty subject matter
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd has a soft spot for games, films, and novels that stimulate the heart, but believes that great art earns the right to manipulate you.

Discussion

24 comments
murderbot375
murderbot375

I personally think that this game is awesome. Totally a 10/10 title for me.

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

"Great art earns the right to manipulate you" -- so true, yet I still end up detesting it in the end. Probably a character flaw.

digi_matrix
digi_matrix

Kevin sure does know his music and art ;)


I wonder, did he like Dear Esther or Proteus?

sol_invictus55
sol_invictus55

How much pot were they smoking when they made this?

Not sure this actually qualifies as a video game.

Adenosine
Adenosine

Dude, what are you talking about? This is the new 2014 Game of the Year, just like how Gone Home was 2013's!


Oh wait, wrong reviewer!

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Let there be caution for aspiring artsy indie game-makers - even your target audience will become jaded sooner or later. ;)

Diegoctba
Diegoctba

Who they want to cheat? Soon, they will release a white screen telling that is the most deep game ever made. That's why i play Battlefield 4, a real game.

Daian
Daian

Initially on Twitter it sounded like u really liked it, I guess not so much.

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

Probably the biggest example is Bioshock. I'm not saying I hate the game, but it's so effective in accomplishing what it sets out to do that I don't actually enjoy playing it. Honestly a 9/10 title, but not one I can have a blast playing.

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

@digi_matrix i was about to say the samething, i like how he talks about the music from a composer's standpoint

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@sol_invictus55 

I have the impression that if you can't understand the expression that another person is trying, you think that the other person is on drugs.

If that impression is true, then you have a terribly convenient approach to people with different values.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Adenosine I love Gone Home and it was one of my top 10 games of the year. Had we chosen it as game of the year it would have been a worthy choice. In short, I have no idea what you are talking about, and aside from wanting to turn any venue into another place to hate Gone Home, have no idea how you made this review about Gone Home. 

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Gelugon_baat Oh, I have no qualms with any game considered "artsy." I have no qualms with 9.03m's core design, just with its failure to use that design to say or do anything worthwhile or interesting. I am still quite open to being sucked in by any kind of game, including the smaller and more introspective ones. 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Just so anyone is wondering, Diegoctba is one of those who think that artsy games are not games. ;)

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Kevin-V 

Well, you have played enough of them that you won't gloss over what you perceive as flaws. At least you are not one to be apologetic towards every title in the artsy genre - there are one too many of them wanting to be me-too's these days.

Diegoctba
Diegoctba

@Gelugon_baat

That's not true, for me a beautiful art is a headshot across the map, exploding enemies vehicles, a killstreak. Walking around and doing nothing is a waste of time.

Spexter
Spexter

@Diegoctba Saying that people who think differently from you are inferiors is the most inferior and idiotic thing you can say.

Diegoctba
Diegoctba

@Gelugon_baat@Diegoctba

The intelligent and the reasonable will agree with me. I do not waste my time arguing with people that thinks different, they are inferiors.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Diegoctba 

Well, that's a rather subjective statement that you have made there, don't you realize?

Some others may consider all that which you have mentioned to be hackneyed and overdone.

9.03m More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    6.4
    Average User RatingOut of 7 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Space Budgie
    Published by:
    Space Budgie
    Genres:
    Adventure