Week 5 of the #52Games52Weeks challenge and Sean plays “Nubla” – Probably the worst game available on PS4.
Developer: Gammera Nest & Oz Lane
Publisher: PlayStation Spain
At least twice a year, the games industry goes gaga over a tired old subject – Can games be ‘Art’? We get hot takes from industry mouth pieces that spout their gospel on how games are/aren’t/will never be/might be art because a new game release triggered some feelings in someone, somewhere. *yawn*
Nubla turns this debate on its head asks the exact opposite question – Can art be made into a game? – and while I think it’s possible, Nubla is probably the worst possible example. In fact, Nubla is probably the worst game released for the PS4 to date.
Developed by Gammera Nest & Oz Lane in conjunction with PlayStation Spain, Nubla is a puzzle solving platformer based on the painitings that are displayed in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Madrid. You play as a nameless character that lives within the paintings that is tasked with rescuing a long legged elephant Nubla (made famous in Salvador Dali’s painting “The Elephants”) in order to restore life to the art of the museum. Or something like that – the game does a pretty lacklustre job of explaining what exactly is going on. The main protagonist can take several forms, all based on different artistic movements such as Surrealism, Expressionism and Abstractism, each of which has their own unique skill.
This game was developed in workshops within the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum as an education tool for art and game development. I’ve searched the world-wide interwebs to find out exactly what this means but I’ve come up short. This probably means that I am about to shit all over a Spanish teenagers hard work s/he did while on a field trip to the museum, but it needs to be said – Nubla is an awful game. And we’re not talking “Kickass 2” bad here. We’re talking “Catwoman” bad. Like “I want to bash my own head in with a house brick” bad. I’ll explain…
When I used the terms “puzzle solving” and “platformer” above, I used the terms very loosely because in actual fact, you do very little of either. While Nubla presents itself as something unique and different, it’s actually just a collection of screenshots based on paintings that you trudge through at a snail’s pace, solving what would be more accurately described as “fetch quests” rather than puzzles. There are 2 actual puzzles in the game – one of which halted my progress for a few moments – but the rest of the so-called “puzzles” involve you walking back and forth, picking up things and taking them to where they need to go. The platforming aspect is even less inspired.
Clocking in at 45 minutes from start to finish, Nubla is also incredibly short and almost half of that is filler. One section of the game has you collecting pieces of a broken mirror. To do this, you walk back and forth through a forest. You have to re-tread the same ground 5 times in total and it gets more and more monotonous each time.
To the credit of the artists involved, the visuals in the games are very eye-catching. Inspired by the masterworks of world-famous artists such as Salvidor Dali, Edward Hooper and Ledwig Meidner, you can see the distinct difference in each artistic movement and those of you who like a leisurely stroll through an art gallery on a Sunday will likely appreciate this game more than I – and I think that is the crux of this games issue…
Nubla was designed around the art work of a museum and I imagine the game would have a wholly different impact if I had just spent a few hours taking in everything that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum had to offer before sitting down to play it. My rudimentary knowledge of the artistic movements included in the game allowed me to appreciate the care and attention that had been spent to replicate the styles but without having stood in front of Salvidor Dali’s The Elephants or Edward Hoopers Hotel Room, its imagery has the same impact as the art work for any game you have ever played. Take away the impact that these influences are supposed to have – say, by playing this game in the UK in your living room while wearing Marvel pyjamas – and you are left with a short, bare bones, boring and unimaginative walking simulator that’s 45 minutes of your life you can never get back.
To gamers, the biggest draw to this game won’t be the artwork or the gameplay. It will be the easy Platinum trophy on offer.
For first time visitors, Sean is attempting to play and complete 52 games in a year and to write something, anything about each one. You can keep up to date on his progress by clicking here or visit previous weeks efforts below: