Icarus Needs is basically the peak of E-Lit for me; it tells a tidy story inside a video game. Having played similar flash games in the past, it didn’t take me long to finish it, but even so I enjoyed the brief experience, one that justifies the comic formatting and inventory management even if the story doesn’t.
On the surface, I thought this story would be some sort of psychosomatic insight into someone’s dreams, because a little bit of that goes a long way into making a character have more layers than an onion. But it turns out that the truth is a little more uninteresting; Icarus fell asleep playing video games and now he needs to wake up by an unspoken method. One of the constant objectives throughout the game under “Icarus Needs” is “to wake up”. Needs and deeds.
The game controls very well and backtracking is not much of a problem from how fast you move. But what the game does present as a problem, is the puzzles, if you can call them that. Some are as simple as a cat obstructing a key.
And sometimes they get as weird as a key obstructing a key. But in between the item collecting and story progression, you get a little more insight on Icarus. To put it lightly, he’s a little self-deprecating, but nothing ever beyond the levels of humor….I think.
Even though the game is brief, it does it’s best to show that you in fact do run into some foreshadowing; running into things and people that you may need down the line. Take the rope vendor for example.
No less than 4-5 panels later, Icarus runs into some trouble that does require the rope vendor, and when you do, you find out his price. As a long time player of video games, good game design is important, and this is one of the better executions of it.
Perhaps my favorite part of the game was the air balloon segment, which exists so you can….uh…..fall down a tree and collect some of the required apples. It’s one of those bizarre moments that remind you that you’re in a dream, one of Icarus’s own doing. It’s because of this that I feel the air balloon scene is a little more lovely than it might appear; Icarus has a known fear of flying and dreams of falling, and yet here he is, dreaming of using a hot air balloon to further his quest. One could say he’s even facing his fears.
The eventual reveal that Kit is “saving” Icarus from his dream isn’t exactly Hitchcock levels of plot twist, but it’s a nice touch that grounds the dream into reality; Kit is someone from his real life and could aid him, even if she doesn’t realize it.
The squirrel king…..I’m guessing Icarus has a massive hate for squirrels. One thing is for sure, his castle is absolutely gorgeous. And tall.
The entire game takes place during a dream, so it was to be expected that the goal is to wake up in the end. Even still, there’s a sense of accomplishment nonetheless. It’s not like Wizard Of Oz got any worse due to its ambiguity….sorry if I spoiled that.
Ultimately, Icarus Needs fulfills its job as both a competent game and e-lit piece successfully. It tells a coherent story even if it’s within a dream, has several puzzles that reward exploration and continuity (except for those dumb spoons) and ends with about the same amount of detail that I’d expect from a written story. It’s not too often that you can have your cake (game/story blended together so perfectly) and have it work, but Icarus Needs is one of those rare examples.