Video game review: Intimate, Infinite, by Robert Yang

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 September, 2014, 10:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 September, 2014, 10:11pm

Intimate, Infinite
Robert Yang

Game developers always try to meld the world of books and games - Tom Clancy's spy adventures, H.P. Lovecraft's creepy horror - but a novel's nature is such that its traditional narrative is often impossible to translate, which is why straight-up adaptations are rare.

One author's work, however, lends itself perfectly to the world: Jorge Luis Borges. The South American writer penned only about 100 short stories altogether, but most are encompassing while being economical; world-building while skilfully confined. In short, like a great video game, each explores endless possibilities and expands mental horizons, but never outstays its welcome. It's surprising then, that it's taken this long for someone to officially adapt his stories.

Intimate, Infinite is a pay-what-you-want PC/Mac/Linux download game independently developed by creator Robert Yang. The game is liberally based on Borges' story, The Garden of Forking Paths, a first world war mystery about a Chinese spy searching for an infinite novel.

Yang has attempted to distil Borges' ideas and themes into three mini-games that are somehow all connected. The first will be familiar to those who've read the story: you take on the role of the spy on the run from enemies firing at you, jumping on a last-minute train before reaching a locked mansion - at which point the game seemingly ends (or does it?). The second is more traditional, yet just as confounding: your character is on an endless loop walking around an empty garden, and you have the option to build hedges to redirect. The third game is chess, but your opponent sits, refusing to make any moves while you clear the board.

How do you solve them? What do they mean? How are they connected? We're still trying to work it out ourselves but the online community guarantees there is a solution.

Even if there isn't one, there's still more creativity here than with most games: because just as Borges' story respectfully played with the literary genres of history, mystery and adventure, so too does the game pay homage and experiment with the gaming worlds of first-person shooters, puzzles and "classics".

Intimate, Infinite reveals the limitless possibilities of gaming better than most have this year.

With limited time, money, manpower and hardware, Yang has nonetheless created a game that does exactly what it says: it's as intimate as it is infinite.