Friday, 4 October 2013

Aftermath and the Individual – 9.03m Review

Aftermath and the Individual – 9.03m

By Owen Jones (Independent Games Addict)

With a whole bunch of triple-A titles being released it’s quite easy to forget about indie games entirely, and with a sale on dedicated to games you might miss (Not on Steam Sale) this is a great shame. One such game is 9.03m, a game that appeared on Desura the other day. Knowing little about it I bought it because:
       a)      It’s a self proclaimed art game and I’m a lover of all things abstract
b     b)      Half (yes, that’s 50%) of the proceeds from this game go to Aid For Japan and I’m a sucker for feeling good about myself.

If these aren’t things that appeal to you then you probably won’t enjoy 9.03m (you heartless bastard). If these things do appeal to you then here’s a trailer for you:

So as you can see the game is shamelessly depressing, not afraid to pull at your heartstrings or roll out the piano chords. If the game was in another developer’s hands it’s possible I’d be telling you how pretentious or cheesy it is, but Space Budgie have handled the subject in a mature and effective manner.
The game takes place on a San Francisco beach (that was the golden gate bridge you saw in the trailer) where you explore the remnants of the lives that were destroyed when a tsunami hit Japan in 2011. It’s at this point in time that if you’re of any geographical knowledge more advanced than being aware that the world is round, you’ll realize that San Francisco is (believe it or not) not in fact in Japan. But if you’re convinced that somewhere along the line an awful mistake has been made then you’ll be wrong, because I’m told that debris from the disaster genuinely did turn up on the shore of San Francisco. If that isn’t a story that deserves to be turned into a (kind of) exploration based game than I don’t know what is.

You know something's arty when it opens with a full moon reflected in the sea...

This wonder-‘em-up consists of walking (duh) along aforementioned beach in search of butterflies. Finding these butterflies consists of following a trail of lights to find a silhouette that will fade to leave behind an object that acts as the final remnant of their existence. Once you have closely examined the object is shall be replaced by a butterfly that will fly away. The tide will be lowered and the process repeated.
This is such a simple mechanic that provides little challenge, so in theory it should soon become repetitive or dull, but in reality the truth is anything but. It’s a core mechanic that’s incredibly effective. The imagery is clear, yet incredibly moving at the same time. I’ll try not to spoil anything, but one encounter involving a baby made my heart drop and I uttered audible protest at what I knew the game was about to present.
Other than that there isn't much here, which by no means is a criticism, the minimalistic features work to 9.03m's advantage. The sound effects are great too, the sea sounds believable and like it's usual calming self. The music also works well, normally soppy piano chords or strings, but is suitably sombre for a game dealing with such sombre issues
To those yanks reading, this is a football, not a sockball, or whatever the hell you call it

I thankfully managed to avoid blubbering like a baby, but the fact that it put my entire life into perspective is a testament to how well Space Budgie have executed 9.03m. I need not provide any further explanation other than it made my grateful to have my chief concern being that it was difficult to find the key that takes screenshots on fraps in the dark.
The art style is also worth noting. Consisting mainly of various shades of blue it either is reminiscent of the colour of the sea or just looks cool, but either way it really added flavour to the whole experience.
The greatest triumph of the game, however, is how it humanizes a statistic. Joseph Stalin once said that the death of one man is a tragedy but the death of a million men is a statistic, and that’s ever-present here. To see the damage the tsunami had on individuals will always be far more moving than reading the number of deaths or the cost of the damage, and in that respect I don’t think there’s anything quite like 9.03m.
 It also touches upon aftermath which is something that’s sadly rarely present in a medium so focused on the here and now. I don’t really think I understood just what the impact of the tsunami was before playing this game, thinking about what disasters such as this mean to individuals has always been present in my mind, but it somehow seems so much more real now.

Well he looks pretty blue...

It’s rather unfortunate that 9.03m suffers from the Achilles’ heel of indie games, namely it’s short and costs too much money, as despite being £1.99 the game is only 10 minutes long. However if this does put you off the game then I refer you to my earlier comment that half of the proceeds currently go to Aid For Japan (I say currently because that may even become 100% some day, or so I believe). Aid For Japan is certainly a worthy cause that helps children who were made orphans by the disaster, so if you look at it as a donation that gives you a great game rather than a ten minute game for £2 then it’s actually a pretty good deal.
So 9.03m is a game that not many people will hear of which is sad because it’s a really thought-provoking and tender game. It’s tragic and glum and is far from a traditional game, but it’s an experience that genuinely had an impact on me, and not many games can say that.

You can be the thing from Desura, check out Space Budgie's website or support it on greenlight. 

I'm not even gonna try to find anything witty to say about this one.


  1. ty for the fantastic review. I was drawn to the game on Desura. It will be my 1st purchase there.

    1. Desura's pretty good for mods/indie games, especially with the ongoing Halloween sale and all. Hope you enjoy 9.03m!

  2. Nice review. Came here after seeing this game on the recent Steam sumner sales.

  3. I hope this review helped you decide whether or not to get it!