A disturbing psychedelic experience.
Californium is a video-game experience set in the universe of Philip K. Dick, author of Minority Report and Blade Runner. Most of the action lies in exploration and spotting oddities in the game environment that are only visible from particular angles. You’ll be guided on your way by the voice of Michael Lonsdale. A feast for the eyes and your brain!
If you hear Minority Report, Total Recall or Blade Runner mentioned, do you think about the author whose books formed the basis of these cinematic adaptations? One Philip K. Dick? When Franco-German TV channel Arte began thinking how to best pay tribute to the renowned sci-fi author, the idea of a video game sprang to mind, one where alternate realities become entangled, and one world conceals another, for a disturbing video game adventure.
Set in 1970s California, you'll be playing as Elvin Green, a writer with a bad case of writer's block. When his daughter dies, he begins a slow descent into depression, drugs, and alcohol. His wife has left him, his publisher has no interest in his work, and he's about to be evicted... more than enough reason to wallow in madness.
Are you ready to begin exploring the world to find gateways to parallel universes? The game immediately immerses you in a world of gaudy colours worthy of the very worst bad trips on LSD. Californium is such a weird game that it's hard to even describe. It best fits into the Hidden Object genre, but with an aesthetic elevated to an artform.
Our favourite part? The game's totally new and thoroughly disconcerting gameplay mechanics. You'll spend most of your time exploring and observing the oppressive, surrealist environments for all kinds of weird goings on.
You'll always need to keep an eye out for the same symbol in the form of Θ. Sometimes you'll only see it thanks to an anomaly in the game world, like a vase disappearing as you pass by, or a lamp shrinking in size. You'll often need to be standing on a very specific spot if you're to see them. A symbol hidden on some shelves, for example, will only become visible when you're far enough away.
In each level, a telescreen (a nod to George Orwell?) displays how many symbols you've still to find. And as you make your way through the game, each level is more disturbing than the last!
Our advice? Don't be put off by the unusual gameplay that may seem repetitive: you'll soon get the hang of it and be making easier progress as the narration grows more intense, provided by the voice of Paul Bandey.
Plenty to immerse you deeper and deeper into the plot that's clearly inspired by the mind-bending stories of Philip K. Dick.
We loved the beautiful game environments and the care taken to create varied backgrounds, all the more so given the scale of the game!
Californium is a game for both newcomers to the work of Philip K. Dick as well as those who have read every book from this master of dystopian fiction. Of course, you need to be at least a little bit open to science fiction, otherwise the experience might not have the impact it's intended to.
And as you travel deeper into the game, always remember one thing: you know what you've lost, but not what you stand to gain.