System: Nintendo Switch (also on mobile and PC)
Developer|Publisher: Sometimes You
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £4.49 | EU € 4,99 | USA $4.99
Release Date: September 1st, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Sometimes You
There are all sorts of game genres such as platformers, RPGs, Sports games. But some clever indie developers occasionally delve into an experience that is a little more experimental. Alveole is a game that is certainly an unusual title. An experience that requires the player to experiment with various combinations whilst paying attention to what is in front of them. If you’re looking for something a little different to add to your gaming diet you may want to consider trying this budget title out.
Run the Wheel
When you begin the game you watch a blank figure start running in a wheel. You are given a single button prompt which makes the figure do a small jump. Not long into the run, you start to see a small black triangle hazard appear just behind you in the wheel. It gradually rotates round and you can either jump over it or stumble. This cycle repeats 7 times then the game fades to white and the process starts from the beginning all over again.
You are given absolutely no instruction on what to do or how to progress through the game. There is no story. Why is this figure running in the hamster wheel? What are they running from? These are questions never answered and left for the player to interpret for themselves. My theory is the chap is running in the wheel to keep my Switch powered up. At least that’s what I would like to think.
Collect the Photos
Not long into Alveole you soon learn the goal is to collect these small polaroid pictures to the right and left of the wheel. By performing certain actions you will unlock these pictures with an annotation. The clues to unlocking these photos are in the small pictures above you. Pay close attention to these pictures and you may just figure out when you should jump and when you should stumble.
I don’t want to spoil too much as this really is a game you should just experience as blind as possible to get the most out of the experience. Why does that dinosaur picture look a little off? Why does that heart rate monitor beep sometimes but not others? Why is there a shark fin on the side of the screen? These are the unusual mysteries you need to solve to complete the game.
Pen and Paper
The graphics are very simple. White background with black pencil-like drawings. It’s a simplistic design that works. I did kinda find myself getting a little hypnotized by the spinning wheel. Then 5 hours later I awoke in a field somewhere unsure where the rest of my day went. Back on point, Alveole does have a nice calming piano score as you wreck your brain trying to figure out its mysteries.
Alveole won’t take you a long time to complete. You’re looking at no more than an hour of game time but that hour may be stretched across several bite-sized gaming sessions. This is the sort of game you will stop playing after getting stuck on one of the photos. Then later you’ll be at work and you suddenly get zapped with inspiration and you have to suddenly stop serving that sweet old lady customer and pull out your Switch to solve the mystery.
One niggle is sometimes you will know a solution to a photo but you make a silly error in the process and you have to wait for the whole run to end before trying again. It’s only a minor issue hence why this is probably best enjoyed in small bursts.
Another issue I came across is once I finished I could not seem to restart the experience. Every time I reloaded the game it just went straight to the ending. The only way to fix this seemed to be to start the game under a different profile. It’s like the game knows you will play this to completion and never touch it again.
Conclusion – A Unique Exhibit
Alveole is an interesting experiment that comes in at an appealingly low price. It’s a formula that I can see clicking with some gamers whilst equally frustrating others. When you eventually dissect the experience and unlock its mysteries there is very little reason to return. But it may be a title you want to hand to a friend or loved one to see what they make of it.
Alveole feels like the type of experience you would usually find at an exhibit in a museum. Only here do you get to enjoy it in your own home. It’s a hard one to rate for sure but I can’t deny I kinda liked what I got to experience here.
Final Verdict: I Like It