Video Gamer Play // FAR: Lone Sails review – outsailing the apocalyps...
FAR: Lone Sails review – outsailing the apocalypse
A sublime little side-scroller in the PlayDead tradition of child protagonists and looming industrial backdrops, FAR: Lone Sails is about going somewhere while staying put. It is the story of a girl, her features swallowed by a comically over-sized coat and hat, who embarks on a journey across a dried-up, abandoned continent after the loss of a loved one. The girl, however, does not do the journeying herself. She lives inside and operates a beautiful two-wheeled landship, its wooden frame peeling away when you board to reveal a dollhouse universe of cylinders and dials, swaying lanterns and pipes joined up by fat red buttons.
The landship is an immediate delight to interact with, from the way its engine backfires apoplectically to the sails that sprout like bullet-holed rabbit ears from its hull, allowing you to save precious fuel when the wind is at your back. It’s also something of a pain in the arse, and all the more endearing for it. The vessel’s tank only has enough fuel for a moment or so of forward movement, obliging frequent trips to the stern to load another crate into the incinerator, and you’ll need to vent steam regularly to stop things bursting or catching fire. Fuel itself is more abundant than you might guess from the post-apocalytic premise (I suspect the game drops it ahead of you, depending on your performance) but it’s important to be efficient, timing each top-up just right so that you eke the most from your supply while never squandering momentum by letting the engine fall quiet. You learn to save time by hopping across the roof of the rope elevator at the ship’s waist, and to leave a crate on the incinerator platform, ready to go in an emergency.
Another game might have lost itself in all this bustling about, in the gradual optimisation of a space that is at once a loyal companion, a mobile home and a gorgeous analog toy, its fittings and surfaces directed outward at the player. But for every moment spent fussing over the vehicle, there’s a moment in Lone Sails when you’re free or forced by some external obstacle to look away, and to appreciate the contrast your rumbling haven forms with the world you’re moving through. Huge oil tankers lean monstrously over dessicated seabeds. Wrecked factories reach their chimneys through sickly yellow light. Red banners flicker in the hearts of snowy railway yards.
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