Warning: If you have not played “Mandagon” by Blind Sky Studios, do not read this review if you do not wish to come across possible spoilers in said review! If you don’t mind spoilers or you’ve already played the game, please go ahead and read this!
This is not my typical book review. Instead, here I am about to review a game called “Mandagon” by Blind Sky Studios. I actually tweeted about thinking about writing this review a few months ago, and it’s about time I get this review put up.
The game’s summary is the following on the official website: “Explore Mandagon, a world inspired by Tibetan theology and philosophy. With a focus on life and death, discover what it means to make a true sacrifice. Traverse a vivid interpretation of Bardo, the Tibetan word for limbo. Learn what experiences brought you there and what forces pull you through . . .”
The game focuses much on an exploration of the entire setting, which appears to be set on temple grounds. Throughout the game, there are several floating totems in the area providing words of wisdom, statues that can make players briefly fly, and every once in a while we might come across birds soaring and the sounds of windchimes. The goal of the game is pretty simple—find six symbols and then find the statues that you need to attach said symbols to. However, this game requires much focus and a lot of repeat searching to find all of the symbols and then find their corresponding statues.
I admit if I hadn’t read the summary of the game, I probably would have assumed that the story is meant to be interpreted in whatever way I wanted to, using only the clues I obtained from each of the floating, speaking totems as well as the setting of the rest of the day. Even with the summary, it can be a little difficult to understand what the storyline of the game is supposed to be about. However, I do like the risk the game took with having us go through such massive exploration so we could enjoy the game as it goes.
What I also like is the inability to die. You cannot die in this game, no matter how much you fall from high surfaces or how long you run around in deep pools of water. I really think this added to exploration aspect to the game, because if you could actually die or drown in the game a lot, it would put a damper on trying to explore the areas of the gigantic, one level that you get to explore in the game and create the element of fear in the player to not take risks. Taking out the ability to die gives the player the room to explore as much as they want with no consequence of a sudden “game over” screen taking place, and instills a bigger sense of freedom associated with the setting.
The one drawback I think the game has is probably the length of gameplay. “Mandagon” is the type of game that can be completed in approximately an hour if you really want to just go and find all the totems without exploring too much. Because the game’s setting is so immersive and so open for exploration, I think it would be nice to have enough content to last at least two or three more hours.
Overall, I think I would give the whole game a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, mainly because of how short the game was. If you’re into a game that requires a lot of exploration as well as beautiful artwork and a storyline open for much interpretation, this is definitely a game you want to check out.