Simpler Times is that rare game preview that also lines up with goings-on in my personal life. At this year’s Summer Game Fest Play Days, I was able to check out the meditative Day of the Devs indie game from Stoneskip and iam8Bit about packing up to move just before I move across the country in a couple of weeks.
Of course, making a big move like that surfaces a lot of emotions, and games like Unpacking, and now Simpler Times, are keen on homing in on those feelings. What pleasantly surprised me was that Simpler Times does so with a more reflective, contemplative, and optimistic tone, giving me the confidence I needed before a significant life change.
In Simpler Times, you play as a girl named Taina who is packing up things in her childhood home as she prepares to move away to college. It was inspired by the personal life experiences of its developers at Stoneskip, who recently made the move from Berlin back to Transylvania. My Summer Game Fest Play Days demo was for the game’s opening, which sees Taina packing up things and also eases players into the game’s controls.
Simpler Times plays from a first-person perspective, although it can feel like a point-and-click adventure game as players move around and interact with objects at predetermined places. Despite that, Simpler Times feels surprisingly nonlinear. After some short, in-world tutorials, I was free to explore and pack up various things scattered around Taina’s bedroom. Almost every object within the room was interactable, and I could move and toss them around as I saw fit.
There are a lot of cute, smaller interactions, like taking photos with a camera or picking up a pencil and drawing on a piece of paper, that add more depth than expected. Imagine an immersive sim where instead of trying to find the best way to get through a room or complete a challenge, you were just trying to explore the space to its fullest. I didn’t even find the notebook that serves as an objective list of sorts until the end of my demo time.
The main crux of progression is packing, as I had to find the right objects to put into certain boxes. One would be for childhood stuffed animals, another for Taina’s favorite books. This not only felt like good practice for what I’m about to do in a couple of weeks, but enabled a lot of cute interactions as well. Some objects can be interacted with on a deeper level, like picking up a pencil to draw on a piece of paper.
Most of the time, though, Taina will comment on whatever she’s picking up. That inner monologue is certainly reflective, but it never feels like it gets too pessimistic, at least in the bit of the game that I played. Taina is a little sad to pack away her stuffed animals, but doesn’t act as if she’ll never see them again and instead chooses to think about what it’d be like if she actually brought them with her. A note from a friend that moved also paints the experience as scary, but ultimately rewarding.
These kinds of interactions make Simpler Times a game that encourages people to take control and embrace life changes. Playing the demo was a very positive experience. I came away from it with a smile on my face and a newfound confidence that no matter what challenges I encounter during my move, things will work out how they are supposed to. Playing a bit of Simpler Times reminded me that moving doesn’t have to be a scary thing, and that made it the most pleasant game I tried at Summer Game Fest Play Days this year.
Simpler Times will be released for PC in 2024.
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