By Monica Bair |
Trauma is less a game and more of an interactive choose-your-own adventure story. Hell, it's more of an art-school project than a game. Told through a series of digital pictures, players explore the complex dreams of a woman dealing with death, loss and guilt. It never beats you over the head with exposition, instead focusing on intense visual imagery that (hopefully) leaves you with a lot of mental fat to chew on long after the experience is over.
Trauma mixes beautiful digital pictures with full motion video in a way that's both engaging and touching. You move about the environment by clicking the edges of each photo, moving you to another frame. Some pictures have interactive points in them that lead to close up pictures of specific items of interest, but points like this are sparse. A limited amount of pictures exist, too, so don't expect to explore every inch of this unique world. Still, just progressing through the game is a treat, as you never know exactly what you'll see between one frame and the next. The pictures also lend themselves well to making it feel like a dream; intense images capture streaks of light to make a surreal atmosphere. The music helps to set the mood, so make sure you have it blasting.
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While you are limited in how much of the environment you can explore, Trauma is full of surprises. Four dreams make up the entirety of the story, and can be completed in as few as 10 minutes and as much as a half an hour. It's disappointingly short, but there's plenty of reason to replay the dreams since each has multiple endings. The only way to get all the endings is to replay earlier levels after you've completed the latter ones.
Each dream sequence teaches also you new ways to interact with the photos. Early on I learned that quick swipes in a direction with the mouse allowed me to turn, giving new perspectives on photos I thought I'd already explored. Later, though, I learned even more complex interactions, such as the ability to make parts of the environment drain away, or to lift specific objects. The number of points where interaction occurs is limited, but the interesting visual effects Trauma puts on the photos as they warp before your eyes is rewarding.