This isn't the first time I've said this, but it's a pet peeve of mine when games don't treat space with the kind of respect it deserves. I get it: we go there so often now - in games - that maybe it's safe to assume it's no longer a big deal, that it's fine to use as a backdrop, a setting, a plot device, without giving it much more thought than that. But as much as I get that assumption, it's still wrong. Space is a big deal. The biggest deal. Space is a unifying, almighty dream and total existential nightmare all in one, an end goal and a gateway to an even bigger one. It's important! The appropriate attitudes to assume when considering space are awe, majesty, reverence, maybe a bit of fear, a touch of dread, even a righteous fury at the thought of the most egalitarian concept may be colonised before we plebs even get a whiff of the collective blank slate. It is infinite and you are not only finite but, like, very, very finite. "You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space". And so space is anything - literally anything - but a prop.
And wow, Jett: The Far Shore doesn't half get that. After a good few hours with it, what I know of Jett is that it's a game very much about the bigness of space, the bigness of travelling through it and across it, the momentousness of both location and occasion. (In fact, it is so frequent in reminding you how overtly about space's bigness it is, that I am almost considering changing my mind, and thinking maybe it would be better if we just did the whole "space looks cool" thing and moved on - but I'll come back to that.)
In Jett you are Mei, a scout and pilot of a very nifty little ship, your "jett", and also what people around you keep referring to as a "mystic", although it's not entirely clear what that means just yet. Your planet, a mixture of rural, spiritualist village folk where you live and oppressed-looking worker drones over at the "cosmodrome" (Superbrothers seem to borrow from a lot of cultures, but there is a particular kind of Sovietness that lingers), is bleak and sparse. It faces some kind of extinction event, only alluded to via euphemism and knowing glance. But your people have also seemingly been called to, by some outer space being known as the hymnwave, and a few select folk - including you - have been deigned of the chance to jet off and investigate, travelling to, scouting, and preparing this new world - "the far shore" - for your people's fresh start.
It's heady stuff, but met with appropriate grandeur by developer Superbrothers. The team, whose last game was the co-developed Sword and Sworcery in 2011, is both a developer and graphic illustrator, and how it shows. Jett is sumptuously pretty, designed as if that old accusation that some games are "too brown" was a personal insult - not to the developers but to the colour brown itself. Jett is all muted putties and soft sands, a palette plucked from the stands of Farrow and Ball, assembled in devout homage to Elephant's Breath.
That's paired with a highly cinematic edge, a penchant for match cuts, cross fades, slow movement and ultrawide framing, symmetry and deliberate asymmetry. It does drift close to that trap so many games fall into, of taking cinematic beauty - some beautiful frame which is beautiful precisely because it depicts, morphing through the lens, something fundamentally possible and entirely real - and dialling it up to something impossibly, unnaturally attractive. But that is video games, that's the quirk of the form itself, and Superbrothers as a team are treading that fine line deftly enough. It is undeniably stunning.
Your actual tasks, from what I've played so far, are exploration. You are mostly in your ship, sporadically plodding about on foot when the moment calls, although thankfully not too often as so far Mei seems to turn like an industrial tanker. Flight, most of the time, is an absolute joy, skimming along aesthetically at an exaggerated camera distance, darting about with handbrake turns, managing the heat of your thrusters, hopping on things because this planet just happens to have plants which love it when you hop on them - fine by me, it's a blast - and evading the occasional bit of hostile fauna. Most of your early tasks are scanning, observing, following, just noodling about, ultra fast noodling.
This is really the core of Jett: it is purposefully slow. Your partner Isao will ask you time and again if he can just take a moment to drink everything in. You'll stop to just look at things, your objective might be to just scan local wildlife for 20 minutes until the great looming sun sets, when things get a bit Blood Moon for the night. I am all about this - more quiet time please, everyone slow the hell down and actually enjoy the thing you're playing, the space you're occupying, without being yanked from one quest marker to the next, by Bat-vision or Mystic Objective Wind or whatever else. Jett does push it, though. There are only so many "what a momentous occasion" subtitles I can read, only so many drifting scene merges - maybe. They are pretty.
There are one or two other little gripes. Jett's controls are pretty fussy. There's an arbitrariness to what interaction requires you to hold a button down and what just requires a press, a bit of awkwardness around lining up your screen with who or what you want to interact with and then button mashing until it finally works, and a few odd switches between X or Circle or Touch Pad to advance. The entire game is also spoken in another language, but with dialogue an essential part of both what it is you're supposed to be doing and what's happening in the story, occasionally it can be frustrating, constantly reading lengthy conversations while also trying to pilot that high-speed jett.
But, nitpicks. These are little things and Jett is still a couple of months away - the release is set for 5th October, as per the announcement just last night - so the hope is most of these will be tidied up some by then. And the rest of it, well, wow. What a sensational bit of atmospheric work, and a wonderful, magnetic world Superbrothers has created in the Far Shore. Appropriate awe indeed.
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