It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play, we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.
The screenshot above contains the entirety of the game Pear Quest. It is both the whole island where the game takes place and your only view of the game itself. No matter where you are on the island, you can see every other part of it. This makes the whole place feel more alive and responsive to what you do, and it creates some interesting solutions to the often frustrating nature of adventure game puzzles.
Pear Quest mashes together the puzzles of classic adventure games like Monkey Island and Myst with the movement of a two-dimensional Legend of Zelda. You control a humanoid rabbit who falls from the sky onto the island. Aside from moving around, you can also pick things up, jump, and talk to the other people / animals who typically either tell you what they need or what you need to solve a puzzle.
You’ll quickly learn that you need to get to the giant pear, which you can clearly see is locked behind a gate. The gate has a heart-shaped lock with a key that is split into two pieces that you can also see on the map. This is a clear visual example of the brilliance of how the game is set up. You can immediately see the end goal and the last step in how you get there along with an entire world full of tantalizing unknowns. It raises plenty of questions, like why is there a big snail near a racetrack? Why is that penguin shivering? What’s the deal with that Totoro-looking thing in the forest?
This produces a natural curiosity, inviting you to explore this space even before you’re presented with puzzles. Once you start encountering puzzles, that exploration helps you piece things together. Most of the puzzles in the game are sort of item chains in which you have to collect something for one character, who, in turn, wants something from someone else, and so on, in order to progress and get the thing. An early example is when you need to cross a broken bridge. You can get it fixed, but the carpenter lost their hammer. By just looking at the game world or by talking to the other animals, you’ll learn a bird probably took it. Going to the bird, they’ll give it up in exchange for finding their missing egg. With a little bit of lateral thinking, you’ll realize the snake probably has it, but then you need to figure out how to get the snake to give it up.
It’s not as tedious as it sounds. Being able to see the entire game world solves some of the backtracking problems that adventure games can have. Since you can always see everything, you don’t have to go there with the rabbit to check it out again. If you get stuck, you can just look around and spot something you haven’t noticed.
The simplicity of Pear Quest’s appearance and gameplay, along with the density of its world, makes the game feel somehow shorter than it actually is. The simplicity of its aesthetic adds to the mystery of this place, making it engrossing and immersive even though you’re essentially just looking at a map. What makes it work is that it’s not just a map that shows you where to go, but it also makes you want to explore.
Pear Quest was created by Sokpop. You can get it on Itch.io for $3 (Windows and macOS). It takes about an hour or two to finish.