Tension (Wasilij “Mushroomer” Kasznikow)

Tension is an artistic project from russian studio Ice-Pick Lodge. It’s a very unique “game”. In the game you find yourself in a different “world”. You don’t know what is it and how you got in. You will meet the first Sister, your Keeper, who will gradually introduce you to the surroundings and attempt to explain the rules behind it all. But apart from that, you’re on your own. You never say a word during the whole game, you just listen to other’s monologues. So there are Sisters in this world, several attractive woman who play the role of mistresses of so-called Brothers, twisted and bizarre-looking men, who see themselves as rules of the world and eternal gatherers and users of Color. Color is a substance of great matter in there. It’s a “life” supporting essence and also something resembling a drug. It’s all about Color in Tension and everyone desire it for their own purposes. Brothers just want to maintain control and feed, Sisters believe that Color can help them get into the state of color-aedema (hard to find a proper word in English, Polish counterpart is “nabrzmienie”), that will allow them to ascend to another “dimension”, supposedly the “real life”, surface. Your goal is to survive in this world. It can end in few ways, you can either join Brothers, you can escape yourself, or you can enable one sister you choose to ascend with you. Each Sister will try to persuade you (or not) into choosing her, each Brother will go great lenghths to explain why it’s a bad idea. Meanwhile, in order to see more of the world, you have to “open hearts” of all Sisters. This is done by providing them with Color. Each heart opening results in Sister putting more trust in you and also… dancing and getting rid of her clothes. Yes, folks, this game just soaks erotism, but in a very artistic, aesthetic way.

You interact with the world drawing glyphs (or graphems, as it’s called in game) using your Color – there are over 20 different signs, and each have a different effect, depending also on how much Color you will spend on it. You collect Color into your own hearts (you’re gaining or founding them thorough the game), where the Color transfers into Lympha and it’s the further processed into Naerva and only as Naerva can it be further used.

Tension feels very oniric. It’s the feeling you’ll be having thorough the whole game – as you are in some sort of a permanent dream, like you’ve lost yourself somewhere between the dream world and the real world and don’t exactly know where do you belong and what’s “real”. Many Tension locations resemble dream approach – they’re mostly built as small areas, like rooms, apartments, gardens, islands. You can only see few things, things your dreaming brain is currently focusing on. And, as in dream, these things that are in focus are extremely detailed. Bench, flower, grass, painting, tree, piano… you’ll see. You will be amazed to see how Color is pictured in the game. It’s indeed very colorful and has an unknowable texture, sometimes it’s liquid, sometimes something more like a honeycomb, sometimes more like a dust. You can truly understand that it’s important to the world and why Brothers are Sisters crave so much for it. The game also escapes the plain “red blue green” but rather chooses royal names like “azure”, “crimson”, “emerald” and so on.Each Sister also can be instantly recognized as different, not only in appearance (but that reflects her attitude also), but in manner of speaking and character. There’s lonely and bland girl, there’s courageus and honorable one, there’s twisted and dark, there’s lecherous and seductive. You might even give them names of your own and attach some feelings – this one you like, this one you don’t, but most of the time it would be “I’m not exactly sure how I feel about her”. It’s all a dream, but not in a “whoa, so many crazy unreal things in here” way, but rather silent, calm, gloomy way, it even gives some kind of “dead place” impression. It’s, again, one of these games you should know about and experience, even if you’re not a gamer. A piece of art and we should support similar efforts in the future. There’s something unique about Russia and their way of expressing things – here in Poland, we value their movies, music and art very highly and often feel that we have much in common.

The Polish edition had a soundtrack and book of art and poems with it. The soundtrack by Mushroomer was my go-to-sleep music for several weeks Though it can be disturbing at times (I can definitely think of someone heavily creeped by it), the connection with the dream I already had because of the game was so strong, that it felt just the right music for sleeping.

Word of notice: this game is known under several names, it’s confusing. Intiially it was released in Russia as Тургор (translated: Turgor). Then, there was a second release for Russia and baltic markets, i.e. Polish (one of best localizations I’ve ever witnessed), under the name Tension. Finally, a year or two later, the game was severly rewritten, changed and released in english language as The Void. I know the game as the Tension, and this name actually feels best for me. The Void is too cliche and sort of misdirects what’s the game about.

Another interesting bit I remember about Tension, is that its creators were very supportive – they were chatting with players on forums, giving links for additional art material and when the game finally leaked as pirated, they’ve commented on torrent and download pages, helped downloaders and encouraged them politely to buy the game. That’s impressive.

More about Tension –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Void_(video_game)

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