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A Post-Apocalypse Game About Witnessing The Past And Present Simultaneously

'Like Roots In The Soil' is something new in a dusty genre.

Kate Gray

All images courtesy SpaceBackyard

There's this amazing British TV show called Time Team, hosted by Baldrick off of Blackadder. It was an archeology program, long off the air now, but just breathe its name amongst any group of dorky-looking 20-somethings and watch the nostalgia ripple through them as if the intervening years had just melted away in seconds.

Time Team was great for many reasons, but the reason I loved it the most was its incredibly janky CGI reconstructions. At the end of each episode, they'd look back on their findings and, I don't know, give the blueprints to some intern with a rough idea of how to work 3D modelling software and there you would have it: a Roman villa, just like it would look if it was in a PS1 game.

I hope you'll forgive that relatively long segue of an intro, because that's how small vignette game Like Roots In The Soil feels to me: the old layered over the new, a recreation of something that used to be there and now isn't.

You play two men at once, one young and in the past; one old and in the future, layered on top of one another but visible at the same time, each taking up half the screen. You can spin and rotate the view, looking to your left to see the past in its pastel glory and to your right to see everything yellowed and faded, boarded up and falling down.

It's what I wish I could see in Fallout: a better idea of what things were like, before, to better contrast with what they are now; to really twist the knife. Things aren't going to be the same again. An irreversible reaction. Wood into charcoal. Life into death.

The game was made for Post-Apocalyptic Jam, and gives an interesting spin (pun intended) on the tired genre by doing exactly what I just described. So many post-apocalyptic films and games focus on the "...and then we were fucked" bit: I Am Legend, Wall-E, Mad Max, The Last of Us, leaving us to piece together backstory from one man's grumbled complaints of what life was like. Like Roots In The Soil instead follows that age-old mantra: show, don't tell.

It's a short game, with just one main destination for both men, but it tells its tale in such simple fashion—albeit with some frankly unnecessary wordage along the lower third, which is occasionally unreadable anyway—it's just one man walking, and it's up to you to look around at the right time to see whatever is in the frame at that second. It's a brief look into this man's life, and though you don't know who he is, or what happened, or why, you know he's going somewhere, and you're along for the ride, however long it takes.

You can download the game for free on itch.io.