Inspired by Dada, David Lynch and William Burroughs, Tangiers is a video game unlike anything we've seen before.
The screenshots and videos from UK-based two-man studio Andalusian's Tangiers are unsettling, deep with jagged shadows, discordant colours, the graceful, spindly-legged gait of the not-quite-human protagonist. Even to perhaps the most jaded eye, Tangiers has an eerie appeal — and all the hallmarks of a cult hit.
It was Alex Harvey who conceived Tangiers, quitting his job of five years to create his first-ever video game, creating Andalusian Games with friend Michael Wright (the name is a nod to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's Un Chien Andalou). It's a culmination of his passions: the twisted world of absurdist surrealism with stealth-based gameplay and exploration.
The protagonist is a stranger in a strange land. You have arrived from elsewhere, and for an unknown reason have to find and remove five other beings — whether by death or kidnapping. But, in arriving, you have broken the world, shattering and warping it.
In the sandbox-style game, you choose how to play. You are encouraged to sneak around, hiding in the shadows — interacting too much in the world will cause it to crumble and rebuild, each action having consequences on the land and cityscapes around you, which ignore and flout the laws of physics. Each play through of the game will bring something new; no two will ever be the same.
The fragile state is inherent in the entire setting. The spoken words of its inhabitants materialise physically — collect the frustrations of a guard unable to locate you and use them to distract, mislead and spread disinformation. Gather the intimate words of an illicit conversation and use them to unveil secrets, hidden pockets within the city. Turn them into reality — a character mentions rats and you can turn his words into a devouring swarm of them.
The game borrows a little from Thief, involving sneaking up and taking foes down from behind, but there the similarities seem to end. The constantly evolving environment derives from the Dadaist cut-up technique, the distorted figures like something out of Max Ernst paintings.
It looks like something utterly unique unto itself. An ambitious project for a first-timer, to be sure, but one that could inspire a new genre of surrealist titles and hang proudly under the banner of "art".
Tangiers is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, where £10 (AU$16.58) will get you a copy of the game on its release in mid 2014 for PC, Mac and Linux. We think any gamer should at least take a look — Tangiers is a game that desperately needs to be made.