It isn't lengthy, but TRAUMA has the ability to reveal the mysteries of the mundane though simple but alluring clicks.

User Rating: 8 | Trauma PC
Indiecade and IGF finalist, TRAUMA, has been on the indie scene's radar for a while now, and has finally been released on Steam. Though you'll likely get an hour or two's worth of play, you'll be rewarded with some surprisingly moving moments and a sense of real discovery.

As a women lies in her hospital bed, she moves in and out of consciousness, to remembrance, dream, and back again to awake. The journey, in four stages, is open to your whims, as you can complete any part of the game in any order. That said, all the stages are connected and are necessary to progress through the whole entirely.

The play occurs through a sort of revised point-and-click. Images float before a black backdrop, and by moving the cursor to and fro, you'll draw out of the image other images which connect to the previous one. Moving around in the world, then, and examining "objects" (which are often not really objects in the traditional sense) is certainly a point-and-click affair. Yet you also learn the ability to inscribe symbols on the screen which turn you left, right, back you up, or turn you around, and eventually you'll learn secret abilities which allow you to progress through each stage's multiple endings. As a mechanic, mousing through images and pictures and occasionally inscribing symbols works quite well with the overall simple nature of the presentation. As images of remembrance, all extremely local and yet simultaneously etherial, the tool is used more as a way of discovery than the typical "puzzle solving" in classics like Myst. Certainly, you'll need to "solve" specific solutions, but the tone here is much more exploratory.

In these four worlds of dream/remembrance, each is composed of serial pictures of landscapes which though initially often seem mundane (a road at night, an old factory at sunset, etc), flower and unfold into strange and metaphysical landscapes. It's this congruence of the ordinary and the extraordinary that's so powerful in play, and it's easily the remarkable aspect of the game. The hospitalized woman's voice speaks to you (herself) as you explore, in a calm but thoughtful tone, as soft piano plays behind it all. The setting, then, becomes surprisingly moving, as the women's voice, the transcendental pictures, and the events which unfold all serve in an understated manner to draw you in compellingly.

As a relatively simple experience, TRAUMA lets you discover on your own how to proceed, though it does give you hints as you progress though a variety of Polaroid images scattered through each level. Some teach you the mechanics of drawing symbols to maneuver through the world while others are hints to the multiple "solutions" for each stage. Each of the four stages has four different endings, each of which is able to be experienced multiple times, with the game "ending" when you complete each for the final "Road Less Traveled" stage. If you're a completionist, though many Polaroids are difficult to find, upon completing all the endings for a stage you're granted a new sense which allows you to judge the distance to each remaining Polaroid. It's a useful addition, though as the Polaroids themselves are useful only in helping to obtain all the endings, it's a modest gift.

Clocking in at one to two hours, TRAUMA might be slightly more expensive than you might want to pay, though the game itself is certainly fresh. Far and away the most provocative aspect is the ability of the game to transmute what seems like a far-too-normal world into someplace magical. It's a rare treat, accomplished by understated art design, appropriately subdued sound, and a focus on exploration over traditional "puzzle solving." TRAUMA won't knock you over the head - it's far too mature for that. Rather, it seeps into your consciousness as you play, and is quite wonderful given it's simple presentation. If you're looking for strong puzzle mechanics, action, or traditional gameplay, look elsewhere. However, if you're an art-house gamer, interested in seeing what the game-medium can deliver in terms of emotional impact and experimentation, clearly you need to pick this up.