Sawbuck Gamer

Thirty Flights Of Loving

Crime Of Passion

Only the caper’s gone bad in Thirty Flights of Loving.

By Joe Keiser • October 1, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Thirty Flights Of Loving is a story about criminals. It’s not a story of a crime, but of people—of their simple pleasures, friendly relationships, and, okay, also their epic getaways. To say any more would ruin it. Look, it’s only 15 minutes long.

The key word here is “story.” There’s not much to play here, just paths to walk down and scenes to watch. But what little is there was carefully chosen. In this softly glowing world of box people, you can pick up bullets you’ll never fire. You can remember when your friend was a best man. Most importantly, you can eat all the oranges you like.

There are a few rough edges, particularly in the way some things look, but they’re not distracting so much as they are reminders that this is a crafted, artisanal work largely by a single person. That man, Brandon Chung, even cops to some of these issues in the included developer’s commentary. If you’ve ever wondered how much thought goes into even the smallest aspects of storytelling games, you should consider this not an added bonus, but essential reading.

It’s a hand-carved ivory bauble, then, and one that’s nice enough to be worth stealing in a daring heist. Enjoy it first; study it later.

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181 Responses to “Crime Of Passion”

  1. RidleyFGJ says:

    I had a feeling that this was the same bunch that did the brief but wonderful Gravity Bone, so I was pleased to have that confirmed by visiting their website.

    • Girard says:

       That game is one of those that I only remember exists when I remember that I’ve forgotten I wanted to play it.

      • RidleyFGJ says:

        You should download it; it takes all of 15 minutes to complete, but what a 15 minutes!

        • lokimotive says:

          Alternately, you can purchase this game and play it as it’s included in the install. Since Gravity Bone is free, I can’t really say it’s an added value, however it’s interesting to have the two games in one package as it brings the games more fully into the same play space, something that I think benefits both of them.

          Thirty Flights of Loving, however, should come with the caveat that it is not truly a “traditional game”. It is rather drastically an “experimental game” (and many would argue, not a game at all). It’s worth playing, but you’ll get the most out of it if you’re the type of person who’s curious about narrative structure in games. Gravity Bone is also not particularly game like, but it at least retains some traditional challenges. Thirty Flights of Loving does away with those completely and is all the more interesting because of it. In fact if you play Thirty Flights of Loving first, like I did, you might be confused by the “challenges” in Gravity Bone they seem to be almost stuck in as an after thought.

          Anyway, these are games that deserve discussion, I think. Also, they tend to crash a lot.

      • blue vodka lemonade says:

         I’ve played Gravity Bone I think twice and Thirty Flights probably four times, give or take a game. TFOL is a bit like one of those “mindbender” movies that you “have to watch at least three times” to get, but it’s far less irritating when that thing you have to do three times is a short, energetic, entertaining interactive thing.

        There’s a bit of room to move in the world to see just a little more on the second playthrough than you probably did on the first, and the jumpy narrative becomes more-or-less clear with some observation and deduction. I haven’t quite deciphered the title, or the meaning of the odd little “exhibit” you walk through after the credits, but it’s a nice and chewy sandwich of a game for about the price of a real sandwich.

        I am very hungry. Also, I got about 20 minutes of sleep the other night because I stayed up finishing Mass Effect 2, a game with which I am no longer on speaking terms.

  2. Cloks says:

    I’m excited to see this reviewed here because I played Gravity Bone while some friends watched and we all enjoyed it. I should’ve picked this up a while ago but between all the new AAA games, it slipped under my radar.

  3. Joel of Arc says:

    Hell yes, this thing is great. It’s crazy that it’s even a departure from Gravity Bone, which at least had some more traditional game-y elements like platforming, finding keys, etc.

    I’m not someone who likes to go out of his way to brand something this new as “important” or whatever, but it’s such a fresh, fun take on story-based games that I can’t imagine it won’t influence or inspire at least a few developers. I think the way this is edited really opens the doors to new types of narrative structure in games. Think about how most games work; since no one wants to break the illusion that you are inhabiting your avatar, even most excellent games have you going very literally from place to place and moment to moment, even when the way your character gets there is the sort of narrative tissue audiences are expected to piece together for themselves in other mediums. (Games often remind me of this one MST3K line where there’s this infuriatingly long shot of the movie’s characters running up a beach to their destination, and one of the guys says something like, “Well, it’s a good thing we know how they got from the boat to the house!”) The way 30 Flights of Loving uses “jump cuts” between different scenes makes the game’s simple story feel at once more streamlined and way more dense than most other titles; finally, a game that wasn’t only trimming the storytelling fat back to its essentials, but was trusting me as smart enough to follow its narrative and assume how its characters get from one place to another.

    I’d love to see if anyone could apply this approach to games that also included the aforementioned traditional elements; I love this experimental, idiosyncratic stuff, but I’m also quite fond of solving puzzles and shooting things. To me, playing 30 Flights of Loving gave me the same feeling as seeing Breathless for the first time. Neither became my favorite of its respective medium or haunted my heart and mind for long after, but I was insanely jazzed on how both were constructed and excited to see what other artists could do with those tweaks. (The difference being, of course, that I’d already seen that result with Breathless countless times and hadn’t even realized it.)