Chances are if you had a PC with a decent internet connection and a desire to game, you found yourself partaking in some of the Flash game offerings various websites had to offer. Personally, I clocked my fair share of hours on Kongregate playing through games that ranged from simple and awful to simple and halfway decent. No, I will not discuss just how many hours “my fair share” really is. I always felt most Flash games were meant to be more of a brief distraction than anything, and typically were forgotten just as quickly as they were consumed. That changed for me the night I first played Don’t Look Back, a Flash offering made by Terry Cavanagh. You may be more familiar with one of his other games, VVVVV. Another excellent game, by the way. Plus it tickles your lips when you say it out loud.
What Is It?
Even if you aren’t a buff when it comes to Greek legend, modern gamers may be familiar with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Yes, they are more than just occupants in that one room in Hades that you are always happy to enter and never want to leave. This sounds kind of funny considering the sheer age of the tale, but I don’t care to fully spoil it here. Yeah, same guy who says a movie spoiler is fair game after a few months chiming in to say I won’t spoil a centuries-old story. I’m a little bit of a Greek mythology nut, and I feel that a lot of the stories and lore are fully deserving of being discovered independently by the reader. I’ll say this much: more than anything, it’s a tale of love and the lengths we would venture to be reunited with those we care deeply about.
This game is an interpretation of that Orpheus / Eurydice story. As it was a Flash game from days gone by, the visual experience is a bit on the simpler side. I found the visual style added so much to the game, as it lends to a stark and solitary feel. A typical screen in the game contains a sparse background, your character, and any enemies that may happen to appear. The game isn’t afraid to use a lot of black, and the often desolate frames lend to the loneliness our character is experiencing. Speaking of enemies, they are present but not in great number or variety. Confrontations can sometimes be resolved by simply jumping over an enemy or a well-timed dodging underneath, but other times you’ll have to utilize the gun you pick up early on. There are just a few characters over the course of the game, but each is fairly unique and must be defeated via a different strategy. This game can pack some challenge, but never of the unfair variety. More on the level of Celeste and not the Ghosts and Goblins mean-spirited challenge. Some enemies require a precision shot and well timed dodging, but there’s never anything that feels impossible to pass. Death in the game sets you back to the frame you died on, so it makes the repeating of a certain part a bit less painless and makes it more enticing to try speed-running after you feel you’ve gotten it all down.
The use of sound and music in the game is exceptional. It’s not just the use of music, but the absence of it as well. I feel most games are too afraid to have a moment of silence as you’re playing through, struggling to put a background track over every little second in an effort to prevent dead air. DLB makes use of silence the same way I earlier spoke about the use of empty spaces. There is a sense of sorrow and isolation conveyed in this game in a manner in which even the fanciest of modern day titles can struggle to get across. Except Metal Gear Solid. Those games sure can do up the sad.
It’s also a game that subverts expectations. When Mario rescues the Princess (provided she’s not in another castle), the game concludes. When the hero reaches their destination, we don’t typically continue to play through the return home. That is where DLB differs, in that reaching your long-lost lover is only part of the game, and you spend the last 1/4 or so of the game heading back. There’s a special mechanic at play for this return portion of the game, and I’ll also not spoil that, although I feel it may be the most obvious thing in the world.
So, You Like It?
This game has stuck with me. I first played this game in 2009, and I still think highly enough of it to sit here and type this up. Thoughts of this game randomly come to mind. The sights and sounds are just as welcoming and breathtaking when I play it in 2021, and the ending still leaves me with the same feelings. Yes, I said feelings, as in more than one. It’s a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, and I implore you to try it out for yourself.
The difficulty will keep you playing for a little bit, but at heart this is a ten minute or under game once you’ve gotten used to the controls and played through once or twice. There is only one path and one ending, but as I said early on, the briefness of the game and quick return after death makes this a great one to just pick up for a minute and speed-run through.
Where Can We Pick It Up?
We all know Flash has suffered an ill fate, and no one is going on a gun-blazing adventure through the underworld to bring it back it seems. As it stands, this game is still downloadable and playable on iOS and in the Google Play store. Mobile gaming may often bring up worries about controls; but I assure you, they will just take you a moment to get used to and you’re good to go!
A game that moves you really is a gift. A game that makes you sit there in the quiet of your home with only your thoughts after it concludes is equally a gift. You wouldn’t expect it to come in such simple wrappings, but DLB really hits home for those who want to mix a little adventure with a little bit of feels.