When I see the state of the world, like many people my age, I wonder if it’s worth having children. Between the rise of nationalism, the tensions that continue to grow and above all the specter of climate change, the consequences of which are being felt more and more violently, one wonders what life will be reserved for our descendants (if there is life).
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist, developed by Northway Games (a studio formed by the couple Sarah and Colin Northway), explores the question, as we embody a teenager between the ages of 10 and 20 as he grows up in a colony of dreamers who have escaped the woes of Earth to try to create a utopian colony on the other side of the universe.
Memories like a card game
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist is a cross between a single player card game and a illustrated story. At the beginning of the adventure you create your character, as well as assign him some characteristics of him.
Then you settle into the new colony and you … live your life. The decisions you make affect not only your character development, but also what happens next for the colony.
Will you spend your days listening to music? Study? Playing sports with your friends? And precisely, who will your friends be? Bribe, the nerd? Dys, the dark young man who dreams of escaping the colony? Cal, the nature lover?
Your decisions change the course of your life and the memories you create. These memories are then transposed into a playing card. Each card has a color and a number. Your goal is to order the cards in your hand to score as many points as possible.
The ways of scoring are a bit like the rules of poker; you can make pairs, races or combine cards of the same suit.
Some cards also have effects that can help or harm you; some cards, for example, are rainbow, meaning they can match any color. Other cards decrease the value of the cards around it.
In short, it is necessary to be able to face these memories in order to succeed in the challenges, which will determine the progress made. Will you win the talent show? Having a particularly fruitful study session? Survive an alien attack?
The cards will decide.
I Was A Teenage Colonist is a game that addresses serious issues: climate change, racism, transhumanism, gender and sexual diversity, veganism and other ethical issues …
It’s an intellectual depth that you certainly don’t find in all games. These questions are approached with tact and, above all, not in a moralistic way.
Northway Games developers don’t dictate answers, but they give us a hellish playing field to think about all these essential questions.
But despite the serious themes, don’t think I Was A Teenage Exocolonist is just gloom and depression.
The game is studded with touching little moments of light, even more so if you take the time to really invest yourself in relationships with the other characters in the game. I’ve only played one game (although the game requires more; we’ll get to that later), but during that time I befriended Tangent and Cal.
The outcome of Cal’s life, in my case, was happier and I really bonded with him. This friendship was touching and I found myself really loving this fictional character.
Tang’s fate, due to my decisions, was less happy. But then again, he’s true to real life; sometimes you can’t be the person the other person needs. It happens, but that doesn’t make it any less sad.
All possible lives
Going through our character’s adolescence itself isn’t very long; it will take about 5 hours to experience the youth of your protagonist.
But very early in the script, I Was a Teenage Exocolonist makes us realize that this part is just one of the possible lives of our hero or heroine. In fact, it is impossible to become friends with everyone or master all areas at the same time.
The game therefore invites you to start over several times to examine all the possibilities; what would have happened if I had specialized in this sector instead? Could I have saved the life of such a character? Could this other friend have had a happier fate?
And with such interesting writing, at the end of my game I only had one wish; start it all over again.
You would have understood it; I really enjoyed the experience offered by I Was a Teenage Exocolonist.
This does not mean that it is a perfect experience; visually, the game is modest. The illustrations are gorgeous, but in action you quickly realize that this title was made on a minimal budget.
We would also have appreciated a little more variety and strategy in the card game part.
But these little recriminations are nothing compared to the sincere and profound pleasure I have had of feeling in this capacity. I thought, I smiled and I was moved.
Can you really ask for more from a work of art?
Note: The publisher has provided us with a key on the Switch for review purposes.
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is available on Switch, Playstation, PC, Mac and Linux
- A touching story
- Huge replay value
- Stunning illustrations
- The visual presentation during the game could have benefited from a little more attention
9 / 10