0°N 0°W (Zero North Zero West) - The Intersection of Surreal and Unconventional
Now, I've played some pretty different and obtuse games in my life, and I can tell you that 0°N 0°W (Zero North Zero West) has taken the crown. It's in a league of its own. Is developer Colorfiction's latest title worth playing? Read on to find out.
The game tells, or rather conveys, the story of a man and his bizarre adventure. You travel through multiple dimensions with no end in sight. Why? I can't be sure as to why. Is this a punishment? Is this a reward? These are all questions that arise in this surreal, unconventional, and synesthesia-inducing game.
Webster's dictionary defines surreal as "marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream." Basically, it's something that's unbelievable or fantastic. 0°N 0°W begins simply enough: you find yourself in an empty small town, with the only thing of note being a small movie theater. You approach the theater, and you're soon transported away.
You then find yourself in a hallway that is devoid of all color except black and white. Being curious, I kept walking, and after five minutes realized that it was endless. So I then decided to walk through a door. At this point, I'm asking myself, "What is going on?"
After walking through another door, I found myself in a strange, purple-dyed space. I was walking through the air. I saw many shapes, but I could barely make them out. I tried to make sense of this, but I couldn't, and part of me was bothered by that. I stopped caring once a path leading to a doorway came into view. So I walked through another door. Then I was back to the eerie doorway.
Again, I'm given no information, but here I am. I choose another door because now I'm feeding my curiosity. I arrive at a neon landscape that looks as if it was pulled from Tron. With no direction of any kind, this neon world was fun. It also was haunting because it was a temporary prison.
Where is the exit? I find it after 30 minutes of wandering. None of this make sense, but I'm back at the hallway of endless doors. Hours pass by, and this becomes cyclical. Is there an end here? Wait, there's another door, I'll walk through the door. How many dimensions have I gone through now?
When something is unconventional, it is by definition "not bound by or in accordance with convention." The developers of 0°N 0°W really made their point during one dimension in particular.
After walking through the door, I found myself in a random tiny apartment. The world was black and white. There was a series of stairs leading out of the room. So naturally, I took the stairs. As I went higher, the stairway then became a series of floating stairs that required precise jumping to get to. I failed a few times and got frustrated in doing so.
Eventually, I reached the last step. There I was, but where was the door? Then it dawned upon me: I was following standard convention. As I stood there baffled, this game hooked me. It's trying to deprogram us as players. It wants us to not fall into that box; it doesn't want us to conform. After this epiphany, I roamed this black and white space until I found the door. I found myself back in the endless hallway. Let me open another door ...
Synthesia is commonly described as a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. When playing 0°N 0°W, you realize it really asserts itself in its visuals and audio.
I have to say, if you suffer from epilepsy, you probably shouldn't play this game. Much of the game is conveyed through its use of colors. The visuals range from subtle to extreme. Some dimensions will be neon bright, dyed in one color, look like a colorless oil painting, etc.
After experiencing these visuals, it triggers other feelings over time. The more time I spent in black and white spaces, for example, the more I felt solitude. In brighter dimensions, I felt a sense of excitement to find the exit. In darker dimensions such as the hallway, I felt pensive.
The game's accompanying soundtrack is the embodiment of ambiance. The score will at times make you feel alone and at other times give you a sense of dissociation and insignificance. You'll be searching for the door and ask yourself many questions: Why am I here? Is there any point to this? The music here serves the important function of evoking feelings in tune with the game's always-changing world.
Art Is Subjective
0°N 0°W is a very different game. Most people play games for their textbook standards. This game, however, is directionless, offering no clues and providing no defined goals. A lot of people will put this game down after a few minutes and disregard it. This is the definition of a niche game; those who enjoy it will enjoy it profusely, but others will find it lacking.
Art is subjective by nature, and I feel that 0°N 0°W is an artistic game, a game made with the intent of not being a game. There are no worlds to save, no deep plots, etc. You are someone traveling through space and time for a reason or not. To me, Colorfiction has created a game which serves as a catharsis. When life and other games become a bit much, I can retreat here. I never knew the weirdest game I would play would be one I needed so badly.
Fans of indie games and artistic games can purchase 0°N 0°W (Zero North Zero West) via Steam.
Note: A review code was provided by the publisher.