There are times when games catch me by surprise. Whether it is story elements, the enjoyment of game play or just being more than what I expected, there is something that pleasantly gives more than I thought I would receive. A game that has recently surprised me with more than I had anticipated is Mandagon.
Mandagon is a free to play Indie PC game developed by Blind Sky Studios. I am honestly not sure how to describe what genre it falls into, because it does not feel like it fits under one specific descriptor. In this game you play a stone totem, 2D platforming your way from statue to statue, map point to map point until you have successfully solved the puzzle that I wasn't sure I understood the answer to; or the question for that matter. And that was part of the fun.
The story behind the game is inspired by Tibetan philosophy on life, death and sacrifice. As you explore each area, the story unfolds. Who you are. Why you are here. What you are doing. I had this very strange feeling exploring this beautiful world while at the same time exploring thoughts about the end of life. Something so breathtaking juxtaposed with a topic usually seen as somber. It was a feeling that I can only describe as odd and unexpected.
The pixel art style of this game gives the feeling of platforming through picturesque temples and their surrounding villages. The soundtrack is very relaxing, almost meditative. And the game play is more focused on exploration than anything else. There are no enemies to fight, no levers to pull or boxes to push. You simply explore and understand. That is one of the main things I loved about Mandagon. There was no tutorial, no hand holding, nothing to tell you what to do next. I simply explored at my leisure until I found the answer.
My hang ups about this game are minor. One, the game is very short. I was finished in a little over an hour. Mandagon definitely left me wanting more of this game and wanting to see more content from Blind Sky Studios. My second gripe was that I had basically been given the answer to what was going on in game by just reading the game description on Steam. Personally, I think that took away a bit of the unveiling and realization I would have gotten if the game description had been a little less giving of details and I had been allowed to piece together the complete story on my own.