In Existensis, our protagonist (known only as The Mayor) is on a curious quest to learn the meaning of life and death. They want to build a monument to their life but are struggling for inspiration, so they are taking this journey of enlightenment. Explore vibrant towns in this search for knowledge while also meeting some interesting characters along the way. Can The Mayor find the answers he so desperately needs to build his legacy?
Existensis is like a “choose your own adventure” story, except to end the game, you need to choose all adventures. You will travel to an assortment of towns, seeking someone of knowledge to help you on your quest. As a 2D platformer, this includes jumping around, chatting to NPCs and finding tidbits of inspiration. Each piece of inspiration fills up a meter for one of two towns you can venture to next. Once full, find the traveller to take you there and progress to the next town.
Each town also has someone that will tell you their thoughts on the meaning of life and death. Once you find them and learn their theories, you’re thrown to a level select screen. This screen has all the branches of the game, and you decide which to visit next. The downside of this system is that you need to play each level three times: Once to get the knowledge you seek, second when visiting one town, third when visiting the other. This becomes quite tedious as your progress isn’t saved, so you need to find all the inspiration each time.
The controls in Existensis feel clunky, with W, A & D the only option for movement. S is used to interact with people and objects, and E to open your journal. Even though I told myself “S to interact”, I constantly accidentally opened the journal. Hopefully, with future updates, there will be the option to change keybinding.
Gameplay and platforming are really only secondary to the story and art, so hopefully, these are issues you can get past to find out all the mysteries of life.
Art and sound design
The art in Existensis is incredible! Each asset was created on paper initially, which must have taken so many hours of work. The backgrounds are intricate, colourful and brimming with detail, and each character is unique and a little quirky. There’s so much to take in here that it’s worth stopping and checking out the surroundings while you find your inspiration.
There isn’t a whole lot to the sound effects in Existensis, but the soundtrack is excellent! Each town has a theme song (which reminded me of Signs of the Sojourner), and they match perfectly with the environment and the characters you meet.
Existensis is a stunning game, and the focus is obviously on the story and the art. As a fan of combat-free story games, I enjoyed Existensis for those components but found the repetition of the levels frustrating. By the end of the game, I felt like I was rushing through these parts so that I could find out how it ended. So, if you enjoy gorgeous interactive fiction and are happy to deal with some repetition, Existensis is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.