As a rule, I am always intrigued by the creepier things in life. Looking at the list of games that would be available during this year’s EGX, I found one particular title that tickled my macabre fancy. Tulpa is a side-scrolling platformer which utilises an interesting dynamic – there are two characters available to play but to only one player.
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Previewed on: PC (Win)
Also Available On: PC (Linux)/Mac
Release Date: TBA
You take control of Ophelia and Oliver – switching between the two when required leaving the other to follow. Ophelia is a pretty standard character, she can’t actually do too much her self other than jump, pull or push but Oliver is where it gets pretty interesting thanks to his unique nature; The name of the game gives a hint to Olivers nature but the demo I played gave little away – Oliver is Ophelias “tulpa”. A tulpa is traditionally based in Buddhism but has recently moved into modern culture thanks to the internet and its many outlets for peoples whims, it is commonly thought of as a persons imaginary friend or as a hallucination someone uses to cope with difficult situations but more recently it is becoming known as a separate entity that resides within a “Host” having its own ideas and personality.
The start of this game links to that idea with Ophelia finding someone pinned to a wall in some sort of occult ritual – it is with this discovery we are introduced to the idea of sanity within the game. Some of you may be used to the concept of a “Sanity” meter with games like Call of Cthulhu or just anything of similar genre but the twist here is how it is managed and the consequence of not paying attention to it – it’s not a meter on the screen but if Ophelia starts getting a headache, be careful as she may explode, the only way to control it is to make sure Oliver stays near as she seems to have some sort of abandonment issues.
Oliver is a bit more intriguing, we first see him attached to a wall in some sort of ritual but he disappears and Ophelia moves into another dimension, in this new area we see several corpses of Oliver in various death poses – this is where he becomes your Tulpa. However in my playthrough he didn’t, the only reason I knew he was meant to be with me though is because I watched others the day previously; this was a minor glitch in an otherwise enthralling play. When you get Oliver he floats behind you and follows Ophelia everywhere, he has some very useful skills. You can switch between the two characters throughout the game when you need to utilise their specific skills such as Oliver being about to move things using his floaty powers and Ophelia using her legs so she doesn’t inadvertently fall into a chasm when she is blindly following Oliver. Oliver is able to pick up and move things from pretty far away to help Ophelia traverse this strange land plus if he floats too far away from her abandonment issues kick in and they both go pop.
Tulpa’s gameplay style reminds me of Limbo; you are trying to work out how to get through the land, with Ophelia doing most of the moving and Oliver most of the interacting but both intrinsically linked. Switching between the two characters using the “Z” Key and moving with WASD it feels fairly standard but each character has specific controls linked to their abilities such as Ophelia being able to jump with the “SPACE” bar and Oliver interacting with the environment using the mouse. The aesthetics are also reminiscent of Limbo with minimal detailing and extensive use of black but this brings in vibrancy in the background images giving a clear juxtaposition and furthering you into the idea that Ophelia is a bit broken and her world is not as it should be. Overall feel of the game is pretty dark, though I did not play enough to fully explore how deep it goes but it was enough to get me hooked.
Tulpa is currently on Steam Greenlight and recently underwent an Indiegogo campaign so it seems to have a lot of support from both Tulpas and their hosts – hopefully we will not have to wait too long for this game to arise.