Figment is a surreal puzzle game that takes place entirely inside the mind. The whimsy of its rich, colorful illustrations is matched by the fact that it actually features musical numbers. Developer Bedtime Digital Games has been working on it for 3 years now, and it’s finally launching later this year on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
I played a demo version and interviewed Bedtime’s CEO Klaus Pedersen last month at Brazil’s Independent Games Festival, where Figment picked up the prize for Best Narrative. It’s a spiritual successor to Bedtime’s first title, Back to Bed, which was a similar kind of surreal puzzler. This time, the studio tried to introduce more exploration and design the gameplay and environment to reflect the narrative more.
“We got feedback that a lot of people enjoyed Back to Bed – the visuals, the creative worlds,” said Pedersen. “But they enjoyed different gameplay, more gameplay that would allow for exploration and discovery of this universe, this world we were running around, these dreamscapes. That’s where the basis of Figment came from.”
We never see the person whose mind we’re in. Instead, I played as Dusty, who represents the person’s courage. At the start of the adventure, he’s been ignored for so long that he’s basically given up and only cares about hanging out on his porch. His sidekick Piper rouses him from his complacency and warns him that the mind is suddenly being plagued by nightmares. Of course, it’s up to him to chase down the nightmares and defeat them, solving puzzles and slaying enemies along the way.
“We leave clues all around the game, in the beginning and the end. What is this whole thing about? Why is the mind filled with nightmares?” said Pedersen. “We also have these collectibles, which are kind of like memories from the childhood of the person whose mind we’re in.”
The collectibles — or Remembranes, as the game calls them — are optional. Pedersen says that they wanted the game to be accessible, so the puzzles and combat aren’t terribly difficult. But for players who are interested in a challenge or additional story, the Remembranes offer more difficult puzzles and more background information about the person’s mind.
Figment is split primarily into two sections — the creative part, which features areas like Originality Overpass, and the logical part, like Clockwork Junction. In Originality Overpass, instruments like lutes and trumpets sprout out of the ground, representing the character’s musical background. I found the design appealing; it reminded me of a kind of cheerful Salvador Dali painting.
The musical aspect of the game gives it even more personality. Every time I met a villain, they first introduced themselves with a musical number, each with a different style. One was inspired by the gravelly voice of Tom Waits; the second was lounge-y jazz.
“We thought it would be a really cool thing to introduce this whole whimsical world we created, where it felt natural for the player and the characters to just break out into dancing and singing,” said Pedersen. “It also gives us some new ways to tell a story. We could do a lot with the lyrics. It felt like a different approach than just having voice-over for the enemies.”
Figment has charm. Though I didn’t get to interact with any other characters aside from Piper and the nightmares I was chasing down, I still felt like there was enough world building. As I traversed the fantastical landscape, I occasionally found houses and could hear characters off screen. Pedersen also says that there are quite a few Easter eggs strewn about to reward exploration.
“We like the old point and click adventure games, where you could click on everything and find a funny bit of story hidden in some corner of the game,” said Pedersen. “There are lots of micro-narratives, almost, hidden throughout the entire game.”
Disclaimer: The BIG Festival organizers covered the travel costs for GamesBeat. Our coverage remains objective.