Is anybody there?
Imagine a world where you wake up to find these texts on your phone. This may have happened to some of us who either ignored these texts or answered “who’s this”. Now imagine that it’s followed up by the stranger saying your number was found on a bloodied phone and the world is ending. This is the way METANOIA begins.
Reminiscent of early text-based video games, there are no graphics and there is no music. The entire game is told through text messages between the player and the stranger, Sam, who found a phone. According to Sam, some sort of disastrous event has occurred causing the dead to come back and attack the living around them. Yup, the Z word, zombies. Rather than saying that word, though, the game avoids the campiness that now comes with it by just calling them the “dead”.
If anyone remembers the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the 1980s, METANOIA plays similarly to that, though Sam is the one who faces the consequences of your choices. It seems that the phone Sam found had your number in it, and you were marked as “favorite”. He hoped it meant that someone would respond, insinuating he’d been trying to get a hold of anyone before the game started.
As Sam goes through trying to find a safe place to hide and use as shelter for the night, you make the decisions for him. Should he search a house? Should he go into the woods? Should he leave people behind? All of these choices are up to you. The goal of the game seems to be to try and keep Sam alive as long as you can, and your choices will either help or hinder him.
This text-message based game built in the Unity engine was made by Everbyte, a new company that was founded by three master’s students. The students are all based in Germany, and while it’s clear that the game might have been made by a non-English speaker, it doesn’t take away from the game play. The game can also be played in their native language of German.
The name of the game, METANOIA, is a theological term that I had never heard before. It means “a transformative change of heart; especially : a spiritual conversion” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. To me, that’s what this really felt like. Games like this can be a spiritual conversation, something to give the player some personal insight.
Despite having an end of the world scenario with zombies involved, the game is designed to make you think about the consequences of your decisions. While the decisions will not have any affect on the life of the player, they may lead directly to a man living or dying. It becomes a bit of a moral decision: do you send Sam out into danger or do you do your best to try and keep him safe and alive? You don’t know Sam; the two of you have never and probably won’t ever meet. What difference does it make if he lives or dies from doing things you tell him to do? While it may seem trivial and is only a game, METANOIA does start to make the player question some of his or her decisions.
Not only did I start to wonder every time Sam went “away” if he would actually come back or if he was going to die, I also wondered if the actions I was telling him to take were ones I would take myself. How long would I really survive in an apocalyptic situation? The game does draw you in, even without graphics or music, as neither of those things are found in text messages.
Sam goes “away” at times when he’s doing things you’ve suggested, and your phone gives you an alert when he comes back. The game kind of decides when you will play it, taking away a bit of the control that a player normally has and turning the tables a little. If Sam says he’s going to be gone for an hour, he generally means it, meaning that I can’t go back into the game to talk to him more until he gets back.
Text-message style games have been seen in the past, such as Emily is Away or the more recent game Sarah is Missing. While the first is more focused on relationships, two people instant messaging back and forth over the years, Sarah is Missing is more horror based like METANOIA where the player is trying to help find the owner of a phone he or she found. This style of gaming is very simple but, when done right, can be quite effective.
At the end of a day in METANOIA, the players get a run down as to how many others made the same decisions, very similar to Telltale’s games or Life is Strange. I intend to see how long I can keep Sam alive, so far so good! I am surprisingly invested despite having only started the game a couple of days ago. I would highly recommend this game, especially for anyone in a choose your own adventure kind of mood.
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
This game is a great "choose your own adventure" kind of experience. If you have tried games like "Sara is Missing", give this one a try.