Free Game Friday: “Bars of Black and White” (2009) Browser

Here Be Dragons | 13 July 2013 | 0 Comments   

It’s been days since you left your apartment.  Your days are spent watching TV, playing computer games, and cooking canned food on the hot plate.  It’s either the setup for “Silent Hill 4″ or the life of the typical gamer.  But in this case, rather than chains on the door or a run to the convenience store for Hot Pockets, you receive a mysterious package that contains…a barcode reader?

This is “Bars of Black and White”, a short but intriguing and philosophical game by Gregory Weir, the mind behind deeply cerebral games like “Looming” and “The Majesty of Colors”.  ”Bars of Black and White” is much shorter and simpler than either of those games, but it still has its own disturbing charm and asks its own weird questions.

The art style, as you can see, is simple to a level of being almost childish.  I expected to grow very tired of it, but I didn’t.  In a weird way, it worked.  Because it has (almost) no colours, the game’s objective becomes clear very quickly; scan every barcode that you can find, and there are many more than might be immediately apparent.  Every barcode is a hint that things are very wrong, and that what at first seemed to be the apartment of the typical disillusioned modern youth is, in face, some sort of prison,and it’s up to you to escape.

Of course, this raises many more questions than it answers, but in many ways that’s what the game is about.  It really is, at its core, about asking questions, and about looking for the hidden meaning in things.  And in the end, you have to decide whether your liberation is physical, mental, or otherwise.

I can’t really say anymore without spoiling the game.  Suffice to say it’s your basic point-and-click, aside from the barcode mechanic, but it’s really all quite intuitive and simple.  You’ll be through it in maybe ten minutes, but I guarantee you it’s a game you will be coming back to.  I think my complaints would be the length (or lack thereof), and the fact that the very few puzzles are way, way too simple.  There’s really no level of exploration or fluidity like what we see in some of Weir’s other games, and while I understand the desire to make a more linear  story, it’s still a mechanic I miss.

Four out of five nerds raging.

You can play “Bars of Black and White” at Ludus Novus.