Thralled

Last updated

Thralled
Thralled logo.jpg
Director(s) Miguel Oliveira
Producer(s) Tiffanie Mang
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X, Ouya
Genre(s) Platform, puzzle
Mode(s) Single-player

Thralled is a platform puzzle video game about an 18th-century runaway slave and her baby escaping the Portuguese slave trade. The game began as a senior project in the USC Interactive Media & Games Division and later became an Ouya exclusive after being discovered by Kellee Santiago.

Contents

Gameplay

Screenshot of gameplay from the game Thralled Screenshot 9.png
Screenshot of gameplay from the game

Thralled is a side-scrolling platform and puzzle game [1] where the player-character is a runaway slave mother escaping the Portuguese slave trade with her baby. [2] The runaway slave, Isaura, escapes from a sugarcane plantation in 18th-century Brazil to find her missing child. [3] She travels through Congo jungles [2] and "colonial New World", and confronts the pains of losing her child and own past. [3] While pursuing freedom and in fear of being caught and returned, [4] she completes puzzles that include moving carts and cutting rope-bridges while temporarily relinquishing the baby. [1] When the baby is placed down to move objects and cross chasms, a dark apparition version of the main character appears and approaches to take the baby. [5] Settings include the plantation, a slave ship, and a castle that stores slaves for trade. [4] The game has no dialogue, so Isaura expresses herself through movement. [4] The game is played through a sole action button which either comforts the baby or interacts with the environment. [2]

Development

Thralled debuted in mid 2013. [1] It started as a student project by creative director Miguel Oliveira and his peers at the University of Southern California Interactive Media & Games Division [3] — Oliveira's senior thesis. [2] He and animator Tiffanie Mang continued the project after their graduation and planned an iOS release. [4] When Ouya developer relations head Kellee Santiago saw the game, she approached the developers about a deal: funding in exchange for exclusivity. They agreed, [3] and the agreement funded the new development company. [2] The game was shown at the March 2014 Game Developers Conference's Ouya booth [3] and in the June 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo's IndieCade section. [1] Early feedback said that the game was too difficult, which hurt the level of "tension" upon trying again. [6]

The mother and child element was chosen to "universalize" the horrors of slavery—that the latter could be made easier to understand through the former. [4] The conceit was also a way to not focus on the violence of the era, which Oliveira said he could not accurately or comfortably depict. [6] Thralled is also partially to humanize the tens of millions in modern slavery worldwide. [4] Oliveira has said that he thought the video game medium was young and should be pushed further, as well as that the interactive medium has endless possibilities for self-expression of "intimacy", [2] for broaching hard topics, and for empathizing with victims. [6] He felt that most games focus on "primitive", animal feelings—"aggressiveness and competitiveness"—and was interested in empathetic and humanizing games that focus on "love and caring". [6] The idea of the shadow figure that pursues the unaccompanied baby descends from a Congolese idea of the dead's world as parallel and reverse to ours, as viewable through reflections in bodies of water and mirrors. The developers also integrated their research on period Congolese and Brazilian culture into the game. [6]

It was expected for release in 2016. [3] The developers previously had no plans to release on other platforms and had not said whether the game is a timed exclusive, [3] though Polygon reported that it was one. [2] This changed in 2015 when a PC, Linux, and Mac version was confirmed. [7]

Reception

Pre-release reception praised the game's artwork and concept. [1] Polygon 's Colin Campbell called the game "emotionally challenging" when citing the baby's cries and Isaura's conspicuous fears. [4] He noted that its gameplay and Ouya exclusivity were likely weak spots. [1] The "chilling experience" made Kotaku's Evan Narcisse cry. [4] He said the game made him consider the lengths to which he would go for his own daughter's betterment. [5] Director of antislavery organization Walk Free Debra Rosen praised the game for its role in raising awareness about modern slavery. [4]

Related Research Articles

<i>Fez</i> (video game) 2012 puzzle-platform video game

Fez is a 2012 indie puzzle-platform game developed by Polytron Corporation and published by Trapdoor. The player-character Gomez receives a fez that reveals his two-dimensional (2D) world to be one of four sides of a three-dimensional (3D) world. The player rotates between these four 2D views to realign platforms and solve puzzles. The objective is to collect cubes and cube fragments to restore order to the universe.

Kellee Santiago Venezuelan American video game designer and producer

Kellee Santiago is a Venezuelan American video game designer and producer. She is the co-founder and former president of thatgamecompany. Santiago was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and raised in Richmond, Virginia, where Santiago played video games from a young age and was encouraged by her software engineer father to experiment with computers. While attending New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, she became active in experimental theater, planning to pursue it after earning a master's degree in the Interactive Media Program of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. However, Santiago became involved in video game design and produced Cloud, a game developed by Jenova Chen and a student team. Its success sparked her and Chen to found thatgamecompany upon graduating, and she became the president.

Ouya Android-based microconsole by Ouya Inc.

The Ouya, stylized as OUYA, is an Android-based microconsole developed by Ouya Inc. Julie Uhrman founded the project in 2012, bringing in designer Yves Béhar to collaborate on its design and Muffi Ghadiali as VP of Product Management to put together the engineering team. Development was funded via Kickstarter, raising US$8.5 million, becoming one of the website's highest earning projects in its history.

Xbox One Home video game consoles developed by Microsoft

The Xbox One is a home video game console developed by Microsoft. Announced in May 2013, it is the successor to Xbox 360 and the third base console in the Xbox series of video game consoles. It was first released in North America, parts of Europe, Australia, and South America in November 2013 and in Japan, China, and other European countries in September 2014. It is the first Xbox game console to be released in China, specifically in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone. Microsoft marketed the device as an "all-in-one entertainment system", hence the name "Xbox One". An eighth-generation console, it mainly competed against Sony's PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's Wii U and later the Switch.

Mojo (microconsole) Android-based video game microconsole

MOJO, stylized as M.O.J.O., is an Android-based video game microconsole manufactured by Mad Catz.

Microconsole Type of video game console

A microconsole is a home video game console that is typically powered by low-cost computing hardware, making the console lower-priced compared to other home consoles on the market. The majority of microconsoles, with a few exceptions such as the PlayStation TV and OnLive Game System, are Android-based digital media players that are bundled with gamepads and marketed as gaming devices. Such microconsoles can be connected to the television to play video games downloaded from an application store such as Google Play.

Green Throttle Games American video game developer

Green Throttle Games is a video game and video game peripheral developer.

<i>Max: The Curse of Brotherhood</i> 2013 video game

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a puzzle-platform video game developed by Press Play for Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch and later on PlayStation 4. The game was announced during Microsoft's E3 2013 press event. It is a sequel to Press Play's previous work, the 2010 game Max & the Magic Marker.

<i>Below</i> (video game) 2018 video game

Below is an action-adventure game developed by Capybara Games. The game was announced during Microsoft's E3 2013 press event, and was indefinitely delayed in 2016. It initially released on Microsoft Windows and Xbox One on December 14, 2018, with a PS4 port released in 2020. The game received mixed reviews upon release.

<i>TowerFall</i> 2013 action video game

TowerFall is an action indie video game created by Maddy Thorson through her company Matt Makes Games. In the game, players control up to four archers in a multiplayer platform fighter. It was released on the Ouya microconsole in June 2013 and was later ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Linux, OS X, and Windows as TowerFall Ascension and to the Nintendo Switch under its original title of TowerFall.

<i>Monument Valley</i> (video game) Puzzle video game

Monument Valley is an indie puzzle game developed and published by Ustwo Games. The player leads the princess Ida through mazes of optical illusions and impossible objects while manipulating the world around her to reach various platforms. Monument Valley was developed over ten months beginning in early 2013 based on concept drawings by company artist Ken Wong. Its visual style was inspired by Japanese prints, minimalist sculpture, and indie games Windosill, Fez, and Sword & Sworcery, and was compared by critics to M. C. Escher drawings and Echochrome. The art was designed such that each frame would be worthy of public display. After a closed beta test, it was released for iOS on April 3, 2014, and was later ported to Android and Windows Phone. The game received generally favorable reviews. Critics praised its art and sound design, but noted its lack of difficulty and short length. It won a 2014 Apple Design Award, was named Apple's best iPad game of 2014, and sold over two million copies by January 2015; by May 2016, sales of the game exceeded 26 million.

<i>That Dragon, Cancer</i> 2016 video game

That Dragon, Cancer is a video game created by Ryan and Amy Green, Josh Larson, and a small team under the name Numinous Games. The autobiographical game is based on the Greens' experience of raising their son Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at twelve months old. Though only given a short time to live, Joel survived for four more years before succumbing to the cancer in March 2014. The game is designed to have the player experience the low and high moments of this period in the style of a point-and-click adventure game, using the medium's interactivity and immersion to relate the tale in ways that a film cannot. It was initially developed to relate Ryan and Amy's personal experience with Joel when they were uncertain of his health, but following his death, they reworked much of the game to memorialize and personalize their time and interactions with Joel for the player. Alongside the game, a documentary, Thank You for Playing, documenting both the last few years of Joel's life and the development of the game, was aired in 2016.

<i>Secrets of Rætikon</i> Video game published by Broken Rules

Secrets of Rætikon is an action-adventure open world video game developed and published by Broken Rules. The player controls a bird and must explore the environment of Rætikon to find its secrets. Game elements include animals with specific behaviors and ancient puzzles. Development began in 2011 and the game was formally announced in July 2013 and followed by alpha and Steam Early Access releases. Secrets of Rætikon was released on April 17, 2014 for Windows, OS X, and Linux platforms. It received mixed reviews from reviewers, who praised its artwork and movement physics, but criticized its inconsistency, lack of cohesion, and technical issues.

Asher Vollmer American indie video game developer (born 1989)

Asher Vollmer is an American indie video game developer and creator of Puzzlejuice and Threes. He created the 2012 iOS game Puzzlejuice while a student at USC Interactive Media & Games Division. The game began his collaboration with Greg Wohlwend. The pair's next release, the 2014 iOS puzzle game Threes, received what review aggregator Metacritic described as "universal acclaim", including perfect scores from Eurogamer and TouchArcade, and the title of Apple Inc.'s iPhone game of the year. The game was later ported to multiple platforms. Polygon included Vollmer in their "50 admirable gaming people" of the year for his work on Threes. Among other projects, Vollmer subsequently worked on Close Castles, a real-time strategy game later put on hiatus, and Royals, a simulation game for OS X and Windows.

Development of <i>Fez</i> Overview about the development of video game

The high-profile and protracted five-year development of the video game Fez led to its status as an "underdog darling of the indie game scene". The 2012 puzzle-platform game built around rotating between four 2D views of a 3D space was developed by indie developer Polytron Corporation and published by Polytron, Trapdoor, and Microsoft Studios. Over the course of the game's development, Fez designer and Polytron founder Phil Fish received celebrity status for his outspoken public persona and prominence in the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which followed the game's final stages of development and Polytron's related legal issues. The game was released to critical acclaim as an Xbox Live Arcade timed exclusive, and was later ported to other platforms. It had sold one million copies by the end of 2013.

<i>Hatred</i> (video game) 2015 shooter game with an isometric perspective

Hatred is an isometric shoot 'em up video game developed and published by Destructive Creations that was released on June 1, 2015 on Microsoft Windows. The player character is a misanthropic mass-killer who begins a "genocide crusade" to kill as many human beings as possible. The developer described Hatred as a reaction to video game aesthetic trends such as political correctness, politeness, vivid color, and games as art. Its October 2014 announcement trailer was characterized as "controversial" by multiple video game journalists. The game was shortly removed by Valve from their Steam Greenlight service due to its extremely violent content but was later brought back with a personal apology from Gabe Newell. It was greenlit for a second time on December 29, 2014 and released on June 1, 2015.

Night Light Interactive

Night Light Interactive, LLC is an American video game company founded in 2012 and based in North Hills, California that has developed the video game Whispering Willows.

<i>P.T.</i> (video game) 2014 video game

P.T. is a psychological horror game developed by Kojima Productions, under the pseudonym "7780s Studio", and published by Konami. It was directed and designed by Hideo Kojima, in collaboration with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.

<i>Unravel Two</i> 2018 video game

Unravel Two is a puzzle-platform game developed by Swedish studio Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts. It was released on June 9, 2018 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version released on March 22, 2019. The game is centered around two 'Yarnys', small anthropomorphic creatures made of yarn. It is the sequel to the 2016 game Unravel.

Scribblenauts is a series of action puzzle video games primarily developed by 5th Cell. The series is owned and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The first game in the series was titled Scribblenauts and was first released on September 15, 2009, in North America, exclusively on the Nintendo DS. Since the release of the first game, five other Scribblenauts games have been released, in addition to two compilations and two comic adaptations.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Campbell, Colin (June 12, 2014). "Thralled is a beautiful and heartbreaking game". Polygon . Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Hall, Charlie (June 14, 2014). "CEO Julie Uhrman talks about the future of Ouya and new exclusive game". Polygon . Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Corriea, Alexa Ray (March 13, 2014). "Thralled, the colonial-era Brazilian slave story, comes to Ouya this fall". Polygon . Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Campbell, Colin (September 24, 2013). "This emotionally challenging game attempts to bring home the pain of slavery". Polygon . Vox Media. Archived from the original on April 29, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  5. 1 2 Narcisse, Evan (August 22, 2013). "I Need This Haunting Game About a Runaway Slave to Get Finished". Kotaku . Gawker Media. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Carmichael, Stephanie (March 19, 2014). "Empathy game Thralled explores slavery through love and motherhood, not violence". VentureBeat . Archived from the original on June 21, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  7. Campbell, Colin (April 24, 2015). "Ouya slavery game Thralled now coming to multiple platforms". Polygon. Retrieved December 18, 2021.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Thralled at Wikimedia Commons