Should I be excited about… Schein
The premise of Schein’s story is simplistic in nature. You play as a man whose son has died. Traveling through a swamp in an attempt to find some form of happiness, you find Irrlicht. Irrlicht (will o’ the wisp in English) is a magical being that shines an aura of light around the player as you traverse through the dark swamp.
While the story wasn’t explained in this dev demo, one of the highlights of the game is its interesting gameplay mechanic. The game involves traversing a 2D environment in the dark to ultimately exit the swamp. The magical power of Irrlicht can be summoned at any time, and lights up a circle of the map surrounding the character. Irrlicht reveals objects hidden in the environment, such as platforms and ledges, but also introduces a range of new hazards, such as thorns. The player must strike a balance by toggling Irrlicht on and off, in order to solve the puzzling path and make their way across the land.
As you go deeper into the swamp, additional mechanics come into play, including using lanterns as an alternate light-source and using the light to turn physics-based gears in order to reach higher platforms.
The art style looks like it has been masterfully taken from a Tim Burton-esque animated film. The dark swamp’s appearance looks edgy and unsettling, while Irrlicht brightens the environment with leaves and grass, and changes its appearance to resemble a forest more than a murky swamp.
While this game looks like it has the potential to be a masterpiece, the currently available version feels a little lacklustre. There isn’t a lot of playability in there at the moment. Over time, using Irrlicht and lanterns to change the visibility of environmental objects becomes a “one-trick pony” for the game. There are no collectibles at the current time, and I had no urge to replay the game.
The magical journey feeling I had while playing this game was also diminished by a death that sent me back quite far from the point I had progressed to. Each death was caused by silly mistakes such as jumping too early, or misjudging the distance between two objects and falling into the swamp. Replaying the same sections again does not feel beneficial in any way. They only involve recalling the path from your short-term memory, because much of the game’s simplicity and, sometimes, emptiness leave no requirement from the player but steady timing.
Schein has a lot of charm for an indie game that is still in development. For an incomplete game (that is also free to play just now), I definitely can’t fault it when it shows ambition and desire to create a special experience. It has some polish and further development ahead of it, and I don’t doubt that it will break ground when it launches.
The team’s IndieGoGo campaign goes live on May 5th, and it will be interesting to see where this game idea goes from there. In the meantime, if you’re interested to see what Schein will offer you, you can download the dev demo from the official website. However, I would recommend waiting until a full release to truly experience the creators’ vision.