Style oozes out of 30 Flights of Loving. It’s in the fabric of the code, coming out in a torrent that you can’t quite handle. It only lasts ten minutes, but for ten minutes you get drunk off the feel of it. The blistering pace, the quick cuts, the desperately cool montages. 30 Flights of Loving does more narratively in ten minutes than most games do in ten hours.
Following on from Gravity Bone (a free Quake 2 mod you can get here, but also comes free with 30 Flights of Loving) in tone if not a direct sequel, it follows the events of a heist, using that one point as a pivot upon which to hang all sorts of snapshots, setting up the relationship between the the player and the two main characters, a burly bearded safecracker and the sultry sharpshooter.
You walk, you look, you take it all in while everything happens around you. It’s a game in the sense that Dear Esther is a game, only here everything is blocks and cartoony bombast, gunfights and getaways and bustling airports. It’s not so much about what you do as what you see, what you experience. A crowd of dancers slowly levitating towards the night sky as you get slowly more wasted. A high speed pursuit through pink washed highways.
And it’s right there that I’m going to stop talking about the events in the game. The story is the point, right down to the incidental details, and the problem with saying ‘Oh hey it was cool when this happened’, or ‘god damn but that twist’ is only going to detract from the experience of playing it through. For a ten minute, £3.50 game, any moment lost to a spoiler is going to reduce an already small stack of moments.
But what I can say, without spoiling all that much, is that it’s ten minutes you’re going to come out of with a big, if slightly befuddled, grin on your face from. Brendan Chung, the developer, has bundled in developer commentary with the game, adopting a Valve-style series of hotpoints in the map that you can click and get a few paragraphs of explanation and exposition about the current scene. It highlights quite how much detail is stuffed into the game, and how many little tricks are used to communicate in a game without verbal communication.
It’s tempting to attack it for a lack of interaction, but, counter-intuitively, interaction isn’t really the point here. 30 Flights of Loving is about being along for the ride, getting swept up in one moment so that it can carry you in a raging torrent onto the next, which might be a calm eddy, a scene that lets you calm down for a second, enjoy the sudden quiet before you’re rushed back into the action. It jumps around, geographically and chronologically, and while it can be momentarily confusing, it somehow holds together, each piece glued with the style and conviction that got it made in the first place.
30 Flights of Loving is a 10 minute injection of style, rammed into your brain with a giant needle shoved right through your eye. Somehow, that’s not unpleasant. It’s just brilliant.