The Search Review
The Search is a short treatise in self-discovery wrapped in the clean white borders of a puzzle-adventure game. You follow one woman on a journey to escape the strange world presented at the game’s beginning. Should you choose to undertake this trip, you’ll learn much about the self and the power of artistic creativity.
If you’re a creative type of any sort, the central message at work here is going to resonate hard. People make art of all kinds for any number of reasons. Video games themselves are rapidly turning into a viable medium for artistic expression. Fitting then, that this game be such a cogent essay on the transformative power of art.
I don’t want to delve into the content of the Search. This is a short game, one you can finish in an hour if you’ve a head for puzzle/adventure titles like this one. We can get into the mechanics, though. It’s a trip down memory lane! There’s picturesque scenes, each containing objects you must discover. Then you just have to figure out what the objects are for, and you’re off to the races! I know I led with the game’s run-time, but relax. The beautiful music and soothing graphics are trying to tell you to take your time. If you get proper stuck, there’s always hints. I was confounded once, before I really gripped what kind of puzzles were at play. After that everything fell into place with a little more ease.
“The beautiful music and soothing graphics are trying to tell you to take your time.”
On the topic of relaxation, the music and sound effects are incredibly peaceful and soothing. Each section of the game feels that much more meditative with the addition of the music. The surreal little scenes, almost devoid of any movement, are nevertheless capable of whisking you away. The Search cultivates an atmosphere synonymous with peaceful self-reflection. The lack of puzzle variety sometimes made things feel too easy, but I did use that hint button a lot. If I’d exercised some restraint, perhaps the game’s short length would have increased a bit.
This game comes with a message. All good stories impart wisdom, morality or both. The Search presents you with artistic expression as a moral act, one that can change your entire world if you commit to it properly. While I agree with said message wholeheartedly, I can’t help but feel like the delivery needs more variety. All of Jung’s quotes and tidbits are communicated to the player in the same fashion. The woman reads them out loud, then reflects on them immediately afterwards. It’s hard to get hung up on the variety issue, since the game is so short, but perhaps it should have been longer? The Search bombards you with a lot of heavy stuff in a short period of time. Some players will absorb it all easily, feeling like the script was written for them and their lives in particular. If the message within doesn’t resonate with you, then this wall of text will overwhelm you quickly. With more time, the message can be fed to you at more measured pace, allowing for greater retention levels overall.
“The Search presents you with artistic expression as a moral act, one that can change your entire world if you commit to it properly.”
At one point, television (and by extension, all things played using televisions) is outed as the Wasteland. Here one can be content with simply receiving the creations of others, rather than creating things yourself. To this end, The Search is a game that laments the culture of entertainment and encourages its players to escape this Wasteland. Art is your key to finishing this game. Old images are consumed to fuel the art which drives your progress. Reality is re-written through your art. Art which you create allows you to literally escape situations which would otherwise trap you. Art’s power in these dreamy sequences is a direct reflection of that same power’s effect on the real world.
The Search is in a strange place. Successfully completing the little journey leaves you with a message, one that encourages you to stop being a passive receptor and start being a creator. Once your time with the game is done, you may want to stop playing games for a while. You may just want to learn about Carl Jung. For me, in spite of the lack of variety among the puzzles and the short length, this game got me thinking. If you make art of any kind, or used to, or want to start, The Search will be a rewarding experience that’s worth your time and attention.
***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***
- Fascinating script
- Lovely musical score
- Relaxing gameplay
- You’ll wish it was just a little longer
- Puzzles could use a bit more variety
- Themes at work are too layered for a single playthrough