Comic books are everywhere these days. It should come as no surprise, then, that there are even adaptations in the world of video games. One adaptation, Meanwhile, is different than the other moves from the printed page to the computer screen. This game is still a comic, albeit one that’s been enhanced. This Meanwhile review article will take a look at this interactive comic book and determine whether the enhancements make it a good purchase for the average consumer.
|Type of game:||Interactive Storytelling|
|Total Play Time:||aprox. 1 hour|
|System Requirements:||CPU: 16 GHz
RAM: 512 MB
HDD Space: 180 MB
The World of Meanwhile
The world of Meanwhile is the world of a comic book. It’s not similar to a comic book or inspired by a comic book – it is absolutely a straight translation of a 2010 comic that’s been enhanced to take advantage of a new medium. To determine how well this works, one must look at the game’s atmosphere, its characters, its plot, and even how the game’s been expanded through DLC.
Atmosphere & Location
Even if the title didn’t give everything away, you’d immediately know that this game started its life as a comic book. Every single design choice reflects that, attempting to leverage the medium of the game to accomplish a few things that aren’t quite possible in the world of traditional comics media. For the most part, it works – the colors pop, the infinite canvas is a great idea, and you really do feel like the comic is far more interactive than it has any right to be. This is a comic first and foremost, and the game succeeds on every level when it shows off just how fantastic a comic book can be when done right on a digital platform.
The comic influences are very obvious here, with a lot of little nods towards creators like Scott McCloud. There’s a strong Sunday Comics feel here, too, which helps with both the panel structure and the art. Huge amounts of credit also realistically need to be given to Choose Your Own Adventure and other similar books, because the way the game works in general relies on users being familiar with the tropes that those books initially created.
Meanwhile certainly has a main character, but it’s hard to say that you play as him. Instead, the main character of the game is more of the protagonist of a story – you choose which story paths he takes, but they’re all very much pre-determined. You’re going to watch Little Jimmy as he stumbles from one (admittedly fun) situation to the next, but it’s very difficult to say that he couldn’t be replaced by any number of other stand-ins. If you’ve ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you know exactly the kind of protagonist that you’re looking at here.
The good news is that Jimmy really isn’t that bad of a character. He’s a kid, but he’s not obnoxious. He’s got a good spirit and is curious, which helps him to get involved in the adventure in the first place. The other characters you’ll encounter are, for the most part, very similar – curious, funny, and a little weird. They aren’t terribly memorable, of course, but they really don’t have to be. These are the types of characters that exist more as places on which the plot can hinge than anything else. They’re solid enough to work, but not so solid that you really care what happens to them by the game’s end.
Because this is a choose your own adventure sort of story, it’s hard to nail down consistent characterization. There are only a few situations in which making one choice over another radically changes the characterization of any given character, but they do exist. Everything here is window dressing, lovely but essentially without any inherent value. It’s the type of thing you expect from this genre, though, so it’s not a knock against the game. You’re looking at an experimental way to deal with a great comic more than a chance to explore any type of character in any sort of depth.
This game is literally all story. There isn’t anything else to it – this is an elaborate choose your own adventure comic that has been put into a quasi-game form. The good news is that the story is actually quite nice, even if it’s not the most original composition ever made. it’s the kind of thing that you’ll spend an hour looking at, full of clever little jokes and some nice moments. There’s time travel and mad science and ice cream here, all of which manages to come together to make something that’s unique to the comic book experience and entirely unlike any other game that you’ve ever played.
The story rests on a series of decisions. While players of games like Mass Effect or even The Witcher might have some experience with world-changing plot points, the truth is that these decisions are one hundred percent of the game. The only interaction you’ll have with this interactive comic book is the decisions that you will make, which the game handily lets you go back to with a few presses of a button. You’re guiding a story that can take a few different turns, but not really as a participant. Instead, you’re the reader who is choosing which pages to flip.
Ultimately, this choice allows you to experience the story in a few different ways. You’ll make a lot of different binary decisions, all of which will lead to other binary decisions. It’s very easy to see how each choice leads you to each consequence, so you can tailor your story to your preferences as you go through each subsequent play through. There are no unique missions or fun game play elements here – just choices that will allow you to get to your next panel or page. If you are a fan of the story, this is great. If you’re not, you won’t find much else to keep you occupied.
DLC & Expansion Packs
It’s very strange to point out that there is an expansion pack for this game, because what’s been release might as well be called a sequel. Yes, it’s connected to the overall universe of Meanwhile and it certainly seems similar, but it’s a totally different product. If you’re wondering how different, here’s a hint – it’s actually released on paper rather than as a game.
There are reasons why the release isn’t in a video game format, but the truth is that the choice really moves this out of the realm of DLC. If you truly loved Meanwhile and really need more of the same kind of narrative, purchase this other product. If you’re looking at something that will actually expand the game and allow you to experience something new in the same format, you might as well skip this one. It’s a neat idea, but it’s ultimately one that isn’t necessarily going to add anything to the main experience.
Meanwhile’s interesting, but it’s really hard to call it a game. It’s certainly got a lovely narrative and it can provide a good hour or so of entertainment, but you’re ultimately looking at something that’s closer to being a very expensive comic book than a real game. If you’re just looking for a story, you can find better – and cheaper – with a novel or a traditional comic. If you’re looking for a game, there’s probably choose your own adventure games that are a little more robust than what’s found here. All in all, though, it is a nice story that you won’t regret experiencing.
That’s just our opinion, though. What did you think of our Meanwhile review? Did you enjoy the game? Did something stick out to you? If so, let us know by getting in contact with us today.