It’s too bright. That’s the problem. I’ve been playing developer Semidome’s Last Voyage for a few minutes when I reach, almost involuntarily, for the light switch. So absorbed am I by the transportive sounds and alien geometry beneath my fingertips that I find myself craving the same darkness that sits tantalizingly at the edge of my screen. Looking to tune out the sensory static of the world I’m sitting in, so I can be more fully present in the world I’m holding in my hands.
Last Voyage proves that sometimes the places you go are the ones that come to you. Spread across five thematically and mechanically distinct chapters is a journey both through spaces and to space itself. A transcendent hour and a half which draws you in while nestling inside your synapses. A trip within and without.
With Last Voyage, Semidome creates masterful tension between simple instructions and abstract environments. Whether you’re sliding to align austere floating monoliths, tapping to find a hidden “pulse” among a series of dots, or swiping your way through an overwhelming rush of colours, there is a feeling of awe in everything you do. Set to a swelling, ambient soundtrack filled with both mechanical cacophony and sudden melodic crescendo, basic brain teasers become much more. There is a constant sense that you’re playing a small part in something bigger than yourself. The intertwined promise and peril of science fiction, bottled.
Particularly resonant for me is penultimate chapter Path, which tasks you with staying centred along a comforting strip of light as you hurl headlong through a chaotic vacuum of reds, oranges, blues, and greens. It’s here that Semidome’s partnership with Costa Rican musician EUS shines brightest, turning a would-be rhythm toy into an overwhelming look into the unknown — a meditation on the last moments before death. That perhaps, is the unifying similarity to Last Voyage’s disparate threads: their transcendence.
It’s too dark. That’s the problem. I’m finished all five chapters, and I’ve put down my iPad, but I need to see my desk and find my computer charger. I flick the light switch and look around, as if suddenly aware of my surroundings. My backpack, heaped in the corner of my tiny den. Next to it, that stain of dubious origin, likely rubbed into the carpet by my dog. The printer, unplugged and covered in a thin layer of dust that betrays its abandonment. All of it, the same.
All of it, different.