Sol is a lonely man. As a child, he was taken away from his home by 'The Fathers' in order to serve his purpose on a distant outpost. Now, decades later, his purpose seems to have been fulfilled. The Fathers have vanished, and Sol begins to question his own existence. He knows that it is time for him to finally return home. But something has gone badly wrong during Sol's journey, and he is not sure where he is now. This is a cold, barren world that appears to be deserted. So where exactly is 'Here'? What is this place? Has he returned home to a place very much changed from what he remembers? Or is he stranded in some kind of broken pocket world? Sol is not sure. He has so many questions. All he knows is that he is stranded in this distorted reality for a purpose. There is only one thing that keeps him going now, in this bleak world - curiosity!
Barren is a point & click adventure game, controlled mainly by the mouse. It is shown from a 1st-person perspective, which means that you see everything through Sol's eyes. Use Options screen at beginning of game to change the text speed. When you begin, you see all the game controls at bottom of the screen. The spanner icon allows you to Save \\\\ Load \\\\ Quit your game at any time. There are four Save-game slots displayed as windows, and they close up when used, which is a nice touch. But don't worry if you use up all the slots, as you can easily Save over a previous slot simply by clicking on it. Two cursors are used to control all of Sol's actions. - a magnifying glass (to look at things), or a hand (pick up, use, or talk).
Movement is controlled by four big blue arrows. Click on them to move up, down, left, or right. But you have pay attention, as you can only move in the direction of arrows that are lit up. If they are not lit up, then you cannot move in that direction. I found this quite confusing at first, as it is easy to miss locations. There is four main sections on the map screen, and areas you have not visited yet are clearly indicated by flashing arrows. You can also scroll through your inventory by using the red left & right arrows. To use an inventory item, simply click on the appropriate icon, then move it to the place you want to use it, and then click again. Although most of the action is controlled by mouse, there are some occasions where you must type in information using your keyboard.
Sol's world is very bleak, and the graphics reflect this with great effect. Like I said earlier, the game is played with a 1st-person perspective, so you see things through Sol's eyes. A lot of greys, whites and blues have been used, which emphasises the loneliness and despair that Sol faces. You can interact with nearly everything you see, and there are some really nice 'treats' to find. Things like running water into the bucket, and sparks on the android show that a lot of attention to detail has been made. However, there are some areas (and items) that seem to serve no purpose. These red herrings are lovely to look at, and interact with, but can be confusing.
MUSIC AND SOUND EFFECTS
Music is hauntingly beautiful, and adds a lot of atmosphere to the game. You can almost imagine yourself in that bleak world. Sometimes, when you are talking to someone, you can hear their voice whispering to you. It sounds so sinister - almost ghost-like. The 'clicking' as you are typing into DOS on the old computer in the factory is very effective, as is the sound of water pouring into the pot when you turn on tap in the storage room. My favourite has to be the bleeps from the arcade machine. It's just so... arcadey, lol.
Most of the puzzles are quite logical, and fun to solve. However, some of them are tricky, and will have you stumped. For example, at one point, you need a password in order to progress, but the password is found in a completely different area. There are also some areas that you think are puzzles, such as opening a locked door, but are actually irrelevant to the game.
Barren is a great game that I enjoyed playing. Sol is trapped in this distorted world, and he doesn't know why. He just wants to leave this bleak place, and return home. His actions are controlled through the mouse, so it is very easy to play. However, it is easy to miss locations if you don't notice which movement-arrows are lit up. Graphics are very effective, and really show what a lonely place Sol is trapped in. Music is just amazing to hear, and the ghostly whispers that you occasionally hear when talking to people makes me shiver. Puzzles can be slightly illogical at times, and will leave you very frustrated, but the whole game has such a great atmosphere, you won't want to quit.
Review by: Frodo