Nothing Like A Little Depression In Life Gallery
After a long holiday break, where I felt like I didn’t play much for the first time in years, I decided it was time to jump back into my usual gaming routine. So while I was going through what came out over the holiday season, I saw this bizarre fish standing behind a cyclops as the games store page art. When I saw that, I knew right away this would be intriguing, if not a little disturbing, and long story short, I was right.
Life Gallery was developed by 751 Games, who put out the equally bizarre Cat Museum last year. Life Gallery follows the life of our cyclops, from birth to a very life-changing, horrifically painful moment in his life. Life Gallery is not for the faint of heart or those looking for an enjoyable, uplifting story. It will beat you down, get under your skin and live there. Never does it uplift our character, and that is utterly depressing. But, clearly, 751 games had a story to tell and the artist’s mind behind them to do so. Life Gallery plays out as a puzzle game, from attaching an umbilical cord to trying to create a pet fish.
Life Gallery did something I didn’t really expect it to. It hit me emotionally. While going through this boy’s life, just constantly being beaten down, not physically but emotionally, it takes its toll. The game lets us know right off the bat that we are on a disturbing journey. We start with a boy crying over a picture as his tears transform into a noose that is hanging from a fan. Next, flash to feet dangling as the rope gets pulled. Then, as our first puzzle unlocks and we are sperm swimming to an egg, it is an incredibly weird intro that lays it all out. Because from there, things only get more bizarre and more disturbing.
There are few games that really stick out as using video games as a medium for pure art. But this is one of them. The odd pen and ink art style really sets this game visually apart. It also utilizes more prominent pieces of art as its jumping-off point in certain puzzles like the Mona Lisa, mixing it with its own unique brand of horror to twist the images we know into nightmare pieces of art that tell this boy’s story.
As you cycle through each illustration, there is a puzzle in each one. Solving the puzzles simply by manipulating objects in these scenes gives us more knowledge about the cyclops, his life, and everything his family was involved in. As we complete these puzzles, it opens more paintings as well. Some of these puzzles are actually quite difficult, which adds an excellent degree of separation from this just being a simple hidden object game over and over again.
There is also this haunting melody that plays while we search these memory paintings that really helps the overall feel of Life Gallery just sink into your bones and chill you to the core.
Life Gallery is an excellent example of games as art, and I really hope that 751 games keep up this trajectory of these weird ass puzzle monstrosities. The journey we go on from start to finish with our cyclops boy is excellent. While it won’t hit as much for people going in looking for purely a game as this hits more as an experience than a game, it struck a chord with me, and I will be thinking about Life Gallery for a long time.
What surprised me about Life Gallery was the price. It is super cheap. I bought it for three dollars on Steam, which it is a shorter experience lasting around an hour, but it was worth the price of admission to be able to experience it.