outside her replivinyl skinsuit the horizon
eats whats left of the sky
James Shasha’s sonam does not give you the illusion of choice. Riding fast from the fury of an oncoming store, your photobike is on as linear a path as the story that you are presented. Perhaps story is too strong a word — experimental poem comes to mind before story, though glimmers of plot are realized in the glitch dust of Shasha’s world.
There is a depth there, a complete world glimpsed as if through parted clouds. Sonam has its own language — replivinyl, photobike, datacrystal. While reminiscent of several games that have come out of the queer games scene in the last few years, especially works by Porpentine, it’s more science fiction than bizarre. Language is the first method of determining the world that you’ve been brought to, and there’s plenty of that in sonam.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of content here. It’s worth pointing out that sonam was not really intended for commercial release. The itch.io page says that game was made as an experiment for a class. In this sense it feels like a jam game, an attempt to explore a concept rather than a fully formed idea. The art is minimalist and attractive, the elements are all there, but it’s a short experimental piece and doesn’t offer a lot more than that.
On a technical level, sonam falters a bit. There seems to be a shader at play that simulates a glitch effect, as well as some other overlay. These actually slow down the game quite a bit — more so than feels entirely like a stylistic choice. In a game this short, those kinds of things can be seen as hang ups — a tiny game is expected to be all the tighter because of its size.
cold thick and quite solid against the
desperate rising wind
The game utilizes a Unity plugin called UnityTwine, which allows the developer to write in Twine and then push out through Unity. Twine can create some graphic depth through some pretty heavy scripting, but it doesn’t yet match the potential of an engine like Unity. Sonam, despite the issues with its slowness, is a great example of some beautiful work that a developer can make in combining the strengths of these two engines.
While short, and not without its flaws, sonam is definitely worth the play through. Take the time to try out James Shasha’s experimental work sonam, available on itch.io.