The really dangerous part of playing numerous short, free indie games is that, if I don’t get to writing about them immediately, I forget a lot of details. They lose that initial woah impact, and my memory is not all that it is cracked up to be these days, and I blame knowing too many Game of Thrones family trees on that. For example, I completed Antenna a couple weeks ago and, other than a tricky puzzle involving matching rhythmic audio tones, I’m having trouble remembering much of what unfolded. Or maybe that’s exactly what LWNA’s Antenna is supposed to be–a mysterious adventure into the unknown, where the darkness hides the light, where you are just as lost as the quadrupedal machine you control.
In terms of story, it’s more of a question–am I alone? This is what our leading robot ponders and then sets out to answer. It scans the radio spectrum for answers, hoping to be heard, while also wondering if it is meant to be heard. There’s a lot of ambiguity to Antenna, and this is especially clear in some of the radio chatter you pick up, which hints at life elsewhere, but never stays long enough to prove the theory true. I’m okay with there not being a whole lot here, as it is, in this case, more fun to wonder than it is to know.
Yet here’s what I do know. The game has a simplistic, but stunning look, one that continues to impress me since the hey-days of 2010’s LIMBO. The forefront is all dark silhouettes and white pupils, and the backgrounds are misty, murky swaths of muted color. Just enough to make you believe there is more in the distance, even if you’ll never get there. Antenna‘s in-game world is not massive or that diverse, but you’ll move your four-legged tank beast across empty plains where radio towers grow, as well as underground, and your imagination will fill in the necessary gaps. I imagined this place as some failed project to build a station on another planet that all got left behind, with our little WALL-E wannabe left to keep things going.
Naturally, a large part of Antenna‘s world and mechanics revolve around sound, which comes from…Arddhu. Not sure if that is a person or company or magical lost city in space. Either way, make sure you have the volume turned up, though I did find a few parts of the radio static hard to listen to or just a wee bit too sharp for my delicate man ears. When not solving puzzles based around specific sounds, there’s a good amount of atmospheric, ambient sound, like drips of water on metal pipes or the cling-clang of the robot’s legs as it walks.
Interestingly enough, the game requires extensive use of a keyboard, as well as the mouse wheel, to be played. No controllers allowed whatsoever. Originally, I tried playing this in bed on my laptop, with no mouse, not realizing how essential it was to even begin the game. You’ll do a lot of holding in keys and pressing other keys simultaneously, and at one point it felt like a game of finger Twister as you tried to keep everything in place, but still do one more action. There’s also some puzzles to be solved, but they most involve finding a particular pitch or tone and matching it with another to turn on some machinery or move to the next scene. Alas, the game didn’t run great on my ASUS laptop, stuttering from moment to moment and dropping audio occasionally, but I was able to see the whole thing through regardless.
I don’t know. Antenna‘s a neat thing from newcomer studio LWNA, and it’s free, so I can’t not recommend you at least give it a try and see if the sensation of uprooting a tower piece by piece using the powers of your fingers and keyboard gets your senses all thingy. I mean, it did for me, but to each their own. I might not have picked up on the game’s meaning or subtleties, but I like its look and courage the developers have for dropping something like this out into the wild with not much behind it in terms of description. May we never be alone, surfing the airwaves, praying that someone else is out there doing the same exact thing. Though I’d be totally okay with being a spider-esque, tower-building robot.