Ürs, by Christopher Hayes and Daniel Talsky (mild spoilers)
[spoiler]My favourite Richard Adams book will always be Shardik, but I have a soft spot for Watership Down: ‘All the world will be your enemy, Prince With A Thousand Enemies…’ This also raises my expectations of the writing quality, perhaps unfairly high. That Richard Adams, he could burrow a line right through your ventricles.
First of all, ‘lushly illustrated’ is an honest description: the art is luminously sweet, with a mystical 90’s vibe. To contrast with this imagery, Ürs is set in one of those familiar semi-dystopias where life is actually not too bad at this very moment, but everything feels Ominous. It’s my tendency to feel flat terror whenever people are trying to sound reassuring about random loud noises…but I go against my instincts, and try to agree with our wise leader that it will All Be Fine.
OK, scratch that. Quest time. I get a piece of rather dry starting advice from an old guardian rabbit who hears out my fears for our warren:
If you think more rabbits need to be born then I guess you can try and do something about it.
Old timer, are you telling me I need to quit philosophising and…ahem…be a bit more rabbit? This line made me chuckle, and I really hope it was deliberate. The old timer doesn’t rise to such witticisms again, sadly, and instead lapses into Rabbit Yoda:
Ye go seek out thee places of the Ürs? That much I will advise deeply against young one.
It’s never very clear why he’s so against it: eventually, I meet the Ürs, and their main danger is that like a lot of people into Higher Things, they are boring. This is where I’m going to get unfairly critical, because a lot of work has clearly gone into this game and it deserves better than a wow-so-pretty on the illustrations: I’m in the sanctum sanctorum of ancient rabbit technology. I don’t require mind-blowing verbal descriptions (thought I like them. Pedal to the Black Rabbit Metal, if possible). But each the chamber of each Old One needs to be distinctive and give me a sense of their personality before they became an Ascended Rabbit Master; the more personal, humble, or surprising, the better.
It just feels like a missed opportunity, because these beings were clearly, at some point, creatures somewhat like the player – and the minimum-entry price for becoming a god is your former identity. I want to know more about them. Much more. What they can recall of themselves, and what they’ve forgotten.
Overall, Ürs is a charming game with a few highly soluble puzzles and lovely art. The tone of the player/narrator is consistent, and my only criticism here is that the location descriptions need filling out in a few places, notably the Ürs citadel and the (small and easily navigated) semi-maze. I get the feeling that this patchiness was due to time constraints.
As an enthusiast for extremely obscure words, I’d also like to take a moment to note the title.
Prize: a pitted ingot in the form of a rabbit gazing skywards. Left on a shelf overnight, it will be found pointing towards Alpha Leporis.
One technical issue: I can repeat the mind trip over and over again, and turn on the power over and over again – the game doesn’t remember that I’ve turned the power on once I’ve left the warren and returned to the Court of the Ürs.
I copied the typos that jumped out at me as I was playing:
Thanks to the Warenherd everything has returned to the way it was … like it always does … as Warrenherd tells us it always will.
Fearing for my life I dive into the entrance of the tiny tunnel and scoot back to the upper hubb
We were once quite beautiful and accomplished. We created this place, and and even your people in a long agoo.
There are towers and halls inside a cieling skin much like the one over this whole place.[/spoiler]