I will attempt to convey the feelings this short demo forced into me as best I can, but you have to experience Chasing the Unseen for yourself. I don’t know if you’ll fully understand until then. And there’s a demo coming on May 17, so you won’t have to wait long.
My title above references Edgar Allen Poe, as the game captures something of the author’s disquieting enchantment. But if we’re talking art, perhaps it makes more sense to describe walking through this game as falling into a Dalí painting — surreal but fascinating. It says nothing but speaks resoundingly.
Words fill the screen. They explain I am lost, confused, and hoping desperately that there is some way out of all of this. It’s a wonderfully provoking introduction.
From here, the world twists and unfurls around me. It’s misty, dreamlike, and unsettling, but knit with awe. Everything I see looks muted — unsaturated — as if the color has leaked from the universe. My ears pick up the sound of a heartbeat buried under the starting notes of an alarm layered over with a light melody.
Sitting in front of me is a rock cairn — which only makes me feel more uneasy. While these piles of stone can mark a lesser-trodden path and help travelers find their way safely, my mind turns to cultures in which these man-made monuments house memories of the dead.
My instinct seems validated when I stumble on a loose stone later on. It’s an item, and in this game, I can exchange the stone in the event of my death to quickly return to my last safe location. So, I gather that into a pocket and hike on.
Not a walking sim, Chasing the Unseen lets players climb certain structures and glide through the air — both restricted by a stamina meter. As I scale a tree to test the limits of this meter, I see it: A monumental tangle of tentacles slicing through the eerily calm skies. They grow larger and closer, causing every fiber of my being to screams: “Hide!” Which I do until the creature disappears from view.
The episode unnerves me somewhat but the game has a fun way to balance that feeling in its character animations. My poor little dude runs as though he has long abandoned any care of other people’s opinions, waving his arms expressively as his legs pump as hard as they can. Jumping is an even funnier spectacle. While sailing through the air, every one of my limbs flails uncontrollably. It makes you want to leap off everything.
Suddenly, something uncharacteristically adorable catches my eye. It’s a small, fuzzy creature. And it’s running away! I take off after it, catching up after some effort, and discover I can collect it. Scooping up a certain amount of the furry little metaphors for my racing mind nets me upgrades. In one of the game’s levels, I manage the feat and my gliding stamina increases by forty points.
My path begins to fork and bend, leading off onto multiple unknown destinations. I may not know why I’m wandering through this world, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know where to go. At the push of a button, I can summon a starry trail to follow and I let this guide me through the ever-twisting world. Until I spot a glowing pool of liquid sunlight so heartening I can’t resist touching it.
This teleports me straight to another level — comfortingly titled Restlessness and Worry — where the flying cephalopod I ran from earlier sweeps past my head. Its massive bulk is heralded by rumbling violins and the low, percussive beating of drums. I let these fade away before setting off to explore my new realm. It is filled with paths that shrink down to tendrils, giving me no oblivious way to get from my current spot up to my star-revealed objective.
Then a wild question pops into my head. Can I climb the multi-armed Leviathan? Gathering all my courage, I make the leap onto its writhing limbs and am stunned when it actually works. I hitch a ride, palms sweating the entire time, up to a previously inaccessible path.
A second illuminated puddle ushers me to the end of the demo. But having finished this all-too-brief preview only makes me want to dive deeper into the rabbit hole. I don’t know when Chasing the Unseen releases, but I am not going to miss it.