Hands-On Preview
Neal Chandran Neal Chandran


Rose Portal Games

Rose Portal Games

Traditional RPG


US 2015

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Happy place.
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Bleak reality.
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This blue monster is a girl's best friend.
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Lovely art like this bookends every chapter.
"The game features virtually no dialogue, so its "show don't tell" approach is very unique from typically verbose RPGs. "

What happens to ships when they've outlived their usefulness? The simple answer is that they're sold to ship breaking yards to be broken down. Ship breaking is one of the filthiest industries out there, both in terms of the work (which is indescribably brutal and hazardous) and in terms of the corruption surrounding the disregard of labor regulations, human rights and environmental concerns. The world's largest ship breaking yards are in third world countries like India and Bangladesh where the labor is cheap and plentiful and the government turns a blind eye to any sketchy practices. The working and living conditions for these laborers in these shipyards are beyond deplorable, and The Wire Nest documentary only scratched the surface of how bad it is.

So why this lesson on a necessary, yet shady and largely unregulated industry? Because Rose Portal Games' latest title, Unraveled, takes inspiration from this largely ignored global issue. Unraveled was placed on Kickstarter in early February with some lofty stretch goals. The most notable goals include music composed by Hiroki Kukita and Dale North as well as porting to Unity for multiplatform distribution beyond PC. We had the pleasure of playing an early access demo build of this game, and our initial impressions are positive.

Set in a squalid ship breaking yard, Unraveled follows the emotional journey of a young girl through decrepit ship hulls as she searches for her family. The depressing environments play tricks on her mind, and her imagination often runs wild with her. Keeping her stable is her beloved blue monster plushie affectionately referred to as "Marbles" by the developer. We all remember our favorite plushie companions from when we were children — we never left home without them, and they kept us from freaking out when life got overwhelming. The game features virtually no dialogue, so its "show don't tell" approach is very unique from typically verbose RPGs. RPG Maker is used skillfully to convey the developer's vision, and I can only imagine what vivid creations Rose Portal can come up with if/when they create their own engines in the future.

Since 2010, Rose Portal Games has stood out from the herd of commercial RPG Maker developers during the commercial RPG Maker boom thanks to their games' incredible production values that pushed the software beyond its limits and were leaps and bounds above the competition. Unique sprites, tiles, and artwork transcended RPG Maker's perceived capabilities, and games like Whisper of a Rose and Sweet Lily Dreams look great even now. Speaking of, those games also wove emotionally investing stories, showcasing that Rose Portal Games is more than just a visual powerhouse. Unraveled also strives to aim higher, and even in its current state, it speaks to the creative talent of the developer. Unraveled features detailed spritework, lush environments, evocative color choices, subtle visual effects, and some tasty shadow art bookending each chapter.

Strategic turn-based battles feature a spectrum bar for player and enemy characters that fades from blue (calm) into yellow (angry). If this bar is in the blue section, "calm" skills and attacks can be used. If it's in the yellow section, "angry" skills and attacks can be used. Each action in battle moves the slider one way or another on the spectrum, so not all moves are available at all times. Battles occur infrequently, so every encounter is akin to a crucial boss encounter. Every battle is winnable, but challenging.

Field exploration features mild platforming elements (insofar as they can be incorporated into an RPGM game) as well as the occasional block pushing or some such puzzle. Throughout the explorable areas are colorful spheres consisting of "memory fragments" that can be redeemed through magical portal doors to restore an interactive dilapidated doll house that resembles a brightly colored Fisher Price doll house. Different doll house restorations yield various bonus items, which is good, since the game has a finite number of available items usable in battles.

As it stands now, Unraveled is a refined piece of RPGM software, but it clearly aims to be much more than that. Hopefully, Kickstarter funding will help it achieve its potential. The game is clearly not just a pie in the sky idea but was thoroughly thought out and is already present in a stable, playable, and mostly complete form. Unraveled's Kickstarter campaign promises that all funds will go directly to the game ("You won't be paying for our broccoli," to quote their page) and here is hoping that Unraveled becomes all that it can be. Learn more about this title at unraveled-game.com.

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