FATALE is the latest commercial release by interactive-art developer Tale of Tales. Much like The Path (which you can find our review for here) FATALE isn’t as much a game as it is an interactive experience. FATALE is based on the play Salome by Oscar Wilde, which is based on the biblical story of Salome and John the Baptist.
In the new testament, Salome was the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas. She was ordered to dance erotically before Herod and her mother Herodias. By performing the dance, Salome granted her mother the opportunity to obtain the death of John the Baptist. According to Mark’s gospel, Herodias hated John for declaring Herod’s marriage to Herodias as unlawful. In response, Salome demanded that John be executed.
While in Oscar Wilde’s play, in which FATALE is based, Salome plays a far more sinister role. In the play Salome is in love with John the Baptist, and when he dismisses her advances in a less than polite manner, she demands his head on a platter from her stepfather in exchange for dancing the dance of the Seven Veils on his birthday. At the end of the play, she picks up John’s severed head and kisses it.
In the game, you start of as what I can only presume is John the Baptist himself. Trapped in a dungeon, and all you can do is walk around using cumbersome controls. As you continue to explore your environment, text pops up showing key passages from the play the game is based on. You may also discover faint writings on some of the walls of the dungeon, which are also passages from the play. I haven’t read the entire play myself so I can only speculate, but it seems as though they are all words that John himself uttered at one point or another. From that assumption you can easily see why Salome might want him dead, with quotes such as “Back, daughter of Sodom! Touch me not. Profane not the temple of the Lord God.”
As a bar starts filling up the lower portion of the screen you start to realize that your time spent in the dungeon is presumably limited. Once the bar reaches its end, the first chapter is concluded. In the following chapter you take on a more abstract form in which you now control a disembodied camera, but you’re no longer stuck in a dark dungeon. Now you’re in a palace courtyard. In it you will be let loose to fend for yourself. At first there is very little indication of what to do, but you’ll notice the various candle lights around the courtyard have a strange glow to them. As you click your way towards them, a darkness will invade the screen, followed by a strange ring. As you exit this darkened state, a black cloud will appear. Positioning this black cloud over the source of light will cause it to fade and extinguish. As you extinguish more and more lights, pieces of a puzzle will appear inside the ring I mentioned above. The solution to this puzzle is something I never discovered, but then again you don’t need to in order to “complete” the “game.”
The game is filled with symbolism that I could barely penetrate, and that’s after brushing up a bit on the subject matter. In the courtyard, which is set in biblical times, you can find a guitar and amplifier along with princess Salomé wearing an iPod.
At the end of the game the camera will shift up to the moon and slowly zoom in till it goes completely white, shortly after a quit option will show up. At first I thought I had done something wrong, I desperately tried clicking all other buttons to no luck. As I quit the game it took me back to windows, I decided to give it another try, in case the game had simply locked up. Once the game started again I was presented with an unmovable camera pointing directly at Salomé dancing. This goes on forever in an endless loop.
This was the end of the experience.
You’ve probably noticed how I haven’t mentioned game mechanics or controls much in this review. There’s a few reasons for that. First, the game is only about 30 minutes long, making investing or caring about mechanics and controls pretty pointless. Second this clearly isn’t a game in the traditional sense and judging it as such would be absolutely unfair. And finally; they’re horrible, unintuitive, cumbersome, aggravating and all around misleading.
This is a product in desperate need of refinement. The art aspect isn’t nearly realized enough to tell a successful story or evoke any emotion other than unsatisfied curiosity. The symbolism is too vague for a mass audience and lacks reference to mean anything significant. And while admirable, the retelling of such a beloved play is unsuccessful, given some key events are skipped over. On the “game” side it’s a complete disaster, the graphics are mediocre at best and controls and instructions are almost non-existent.
Some compliments can be paid however, it does succeed in creating an interesting atmosphere that absolutely screams with potential. The music is top notch, though minimalistic, and it creates a natural feel for an unnatural setting. The passages extracted from the play do a wonderful job of drawing in the player. It’s made me consider buying a copy of the play. It’s also fantastic to see developers trying to break the mold as to what can be considered a video game and it definitely expands the horizons for what future games can be. It’s less “game” and more “interactive art.” All in all though, at $7 this isn’t a product I can recommend for the average consumer.