Review: Thirty Flights of Loving – The Sequel to Gravity Bone

I’m not really sure what the title means. I’m not really sure what the game means. It’s only 15 minutes long, I know that. And it’s kind of the sequel to the stellar Gravity Bone, I know that too.

Thirty Flights of Loving is… a Quake II mod, pretty much exclusively created by BLENDO Games founder/mastermind, Brendon Chung. It features blocky characters that speak like they learned English from the teacher in Charlie Brown’s class. It’s set in the same game universe as Gravity Bone, but at a different point in the life of the super spy(?) main player-character, Citizen Abel. It’s worth every penny of the $5 asking price.

I’ve heard it described as an interactive short story, and that seems appropriate. There are no on-screen enemies (except the ones inside you whooaaaaaaa). It’s in first-person and very, very on rails. It seems to exist solely to tell you a story you’ll barely begin to understand before it’s over, and to make you feel… just to make you feel.

To describe Thirty Flights of Loving too fully would do you a disservice — in part because the game is only 15 minutes long in the first place,  but mostly because this is a game that really needs to be experienced for oneself. Jump cuts everywhere cut out the boring bits, and what you’re left with is this singular, insular moment in time where you’ll never know what’s going to happen next. Like Gravity Bone, but a little more polished, and quite a bit weirder.

I’ve had plenty of conversations comparing movies and games. The biggest difference, I’ve argued, is that many games – especially the newer breed – can be described to me by a press release, the back of the box, via a 1-minute YouTube video, or just by someone saying, “It’s like X game, but with Y differences.” With only that, I can have the experience of the game firmly set in my mind, and it would take an awful long time after actually sitting down with it to change my preconceptions of what I expected. This is tough to do with TFOL. You can say “Gravity Bone sequel” and get a good idea of the style, but what happens, and especially what it means to YOU personally based on what little you can piece together using silent environment clues, well… that’s a very personal and different thing.

I – and most gamers, I think – can have little more than a Steam description and talk about the game on at least a basic satisfactory level with other people. Sure, you won’t have the deep, thoughtful types of conversations that create 1,000-word blog posts, but have you ever tried discussing a movie you’ve never seen? It’s a lot harder, because the starting point of your convo, at least, will be the storyline, and what actually happened in the movie (this is a huge simplification, but deal with it, film buffs). And if you don’t know the story, you don’t know the movie. Maybe it’s just the spoilers. Story is so important to film, and woe is the critic that tells people what actually HAPPENS in a movie! But games… some of them are about story (okay, mostly just BioWare), but most reviews talk about the graphics, or the controls, or that intangible and all-important asset “innovation.” But Thirty Flights of Loving, or Gravity Bone for that matter, isn’t about the mechanics. The actual gameplay is secondary. It’s about all the feels it gives you.

Jump cuts. Callbacks. Espionage. Bullets. Relationships. Prohibition. Drinking. Wanted posters. You might hold your breath for 15 solid minutes, even through the weird Bernoulli bits (you’ll see). TFOL should not be missed, and for $5 you have no reason not to try it. The best part: after you play it, we can all get together and try to figure out WHAT THE CRAP JUST HAPPENED.

5 Gumballs out of 5

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1 Comment

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One response to “Review: Thirty Flights of Loving – The Sequel to Gravity Bone

  1. So, I finished TFoL yesterday, along with Analogue: A Hate Story, and finally got around to posting here. I don’t want to dicuss too much publicly, but that game was really, really good. I’m a sucker for little arthouse game titles like this or the millions of Flash based ones you can find online, and TFoL is definately one of the more surreal ones. Like you said, it’s really the experience that matters, more than any kind of message or narrative, and it certainly was an interesting experience.

    Loved it

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