previews\ Feb 23, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: Orphan mixes touching storytelling and WarioWare-style mini-games


Despite their humble beginnings as plot-less exercises in action and twitch reflexes, video games as a medium have managed to evolve with their storytelling. This trend has been much more prominent in indie games over the last few years, with titles like To the Moon, Cart Life, and Papers, Please going in more riveting, thought-provoking directions with their narratives. But even mainstream titles like The Last of Us and The Walking Dead successfully delve into a much more remarkable level of story-based depth. Now, a two-man team is looking to deliver its own brand of intense narrative with Orphan.

Developed by Kayabros, which consists of brothers Talha and Tarik Kaya, Orphan tells the tale of a young boy who's on a journey to find his family, or what's left of it. Details are still scarce, but the Orphan Tumblr page mentions that the game's plot is deeply rooted in relationships between parents and their children. It's the kind of touchy subject that could potentially hit close to home for a lot of players, and it could make for a remarkable experience.

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According to Kayabros, the writing of Orphan is its main driving force. Though there are certainly gameplay systems incorporated into the title, it's the story that makes the biggest impact. Characters interact with one another, and these sequences will offer you multiple choices — choices that will directly impact the flow of the game. Depending on how you respond to certain questions and comments, you'll be treated to one of the game's multiple endings. If you want to see the story play out differently, you can always jump back in and change things up in subsequent play-throughs.

In addition to interacting with characters and engaging in game-altering conversations with them, Orphan also features mini-games that progress the adventure further. If the game's trailer is any indication, these mini-games are fairly quick affairs akin to the WarioWare games. You're tasked with completing quick objectives like wiping tears off a character's face and consuming pills. This gameplay doesn't appear to be complex (though that could change given the brief trailer), but like WarioWare, it could make for fun doses of “gaminess” in an otherwise serious adventure game.

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The art of Orphan is quite interesting. The game features a simple hand-drawn look that's easy on the eyes. It almost looks like something you'd see on an album cover or music video. Given the dark nature of Orphan, I was slightly reminded of the video for “Grapevine Fires” from Death Cab for Cutie. Colors are subdued for the most part and help welcome you into the game, and simple line usage creates a vibe that's easy to relate to. It's not a complex art style, but it works with the subject matter due to how it almost looks like a child's artwork.

Kayabros has drawn inspiration from a number of influences. The studio lists Braid, Dys4ia, and Experiment 12 as games that had a deep impact on the development of Orphan. Additionally, the cult movie Gummo also served as a huge influence on the game due to its unorthodox yet memorable capability to tell a unique story.

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Launch plans and development details are currently under wraps, but Orphan definitely looks like an adventure game worth watching out for. In a blog post on Gamasutra, Kayabros explained that the game won't be for everyone, but for individuals looking for something a little bit different, it could be a spectacle in meaningful narrative. As someone who's a sucker for rich writing in games, I sincerely look forward to seeing what this team of two brothers does with its promising endeavor.

For another look at something different with moody undertones, check out Ode to Pixel Days from Kayabros' Talha Kaya, a game based entirely around the concepts of self-esteem and self-worth. It's funny and depressing, but most importantly, it'll make you stop and think. You can watch the trailer for Orphan below.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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