Presentable Liberty

The game Presentable Liberty is a first person indie game which places the player in a standard setting of waking up, with apparent amnesia, trapped in an unfamiliar setting. While the usual course of action for the player is to immediately attempt to escape these surroundings, you quickly discover that your incarcerated state is the substance of the game. You are locked in a cell, and have no capacity to move, communicate, or even look outside the bounds of your cramped room; with only a clock, some furniture and… a spider for company. As nobody ever appears at the cell door, this means that the player's role within the game is minimal.
Developers: WertpolPlatforms: PC

Despite the absence of people for the player to see or interact with, the player is nonetheless subject to communication through the medium of typed or hand-written letters which magically appear under the door of your cell. These letters, from apparently four different individuals, vary in their script, styles, and register to reflect the different voices of these unseen characters. These notes purport the inform the player about the game's universe, as the unseen characters relate surreal details concerning a supposed viral pandemic that has supposedly left all but a handful of people dead. The characters in these letters at times pointlessly plead, implore or command the player to perform various tasks (such as leaving his cell, or stopping letters from another character from being delivered). Given the impotent position the player is placed, these instructions mostly constitute an annoyance. Seeing that we are given almost nothing to either substantiate or refute anything that the letters claim, it is hard not to take all of their details with a pinch of salt. As such, the revelations and twists that the game provides (such as they are) fall somewhat flat. Because the veracity of the letters is left in doubt, what is and is not reality within the game is left at the discretion of the developer. In the context of the narrative of Presentable Liberty this is somewhat lose-lose: because if the narrative (as it is related in the letters) is true, then it is nonsensical; but if it is not true, then receiving the letters (and indeed the majority of the game) is a waste of time.

Ironically, the actual gameplay in Presentable Liberty is found in mini-games that are given to the player by a "prison buddy" who relates the increasingly desperate measures he must take to afford such items. These games are variants of well-known real-world titles such as Snake, and Flappy Bird, and are, in themselves, fine in their design and execution (except for the final, 5th title, which involves 20 levels of repetitious cog turning, which is, presumably, added as a joke). These mini-games, otherwise irrelevant to the narrative, fill in the time nicely as you wait for letters to arrive under your cell door.

Presentable Liberty is about an hour long in total (depending on how long you choose to play the mini-games). It has no save function, so it technically must be played from start to finish in one sitting. The graphics are very basic; harking back to ancient first-person-shooters from the mid-90s. The austere setting and ambience are great for producing the desired claustrophobic effect. However, while the premise of Presentable Liberty has serious merit, the developer seems unsure about how he really planned to carry it off. While the use of letters is effective in providing details to the player while maintaining his isolation, the execution falls apart when it attempts to effectively have these characters talk in real time through the use of mail. The letters regularly take the form of a script; including staccato sentences, dramatic pauses, and trailing lines, with the delay in letter delivery filling in for the cadence that would naturally occur in verbal communication. As it is somewhat difficult to take what the letters say particularly seriously (even in retrospect), and strictly speaking, there isn't much to the game outside of the epistolary narration, it is hard to recommend Presentable Liberty on any particular level.

The game is free, but as full playthroughs are available on Youtube, it seems preferable to recommend these rather than the game itself (as this will spare you the letter-delivery delays). While the concept of this Indie platform has promise, Presentable Liberty is merely a work in progress to the end of actually delivering upon this design.