The Beginner’s Guide Review
Initial NA Release Date: October 1, 2015
Review Date: May 22, 2016
Reviewed on: PC
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
A game about deducing and finding a deeper meaning in other games, as well as getting to know the character and personality of the developer of these games through his unfinished work. Woah, That’s a lot to take in for a cliff note of what The Beginner’s Guide is all about, but it was enough to hook me and I’m glad it did.
When I first finished The Beginner’s Guide, I had so many thoughts and questions that were going through my head. I don’t want to write them here because I want everyone who plays this game to get a similar experience that I had with it. However, there was one thought in particular that I will tell you. As soon as I finished, watching the credits roll I thought to myself; how do I review this game?
I usually go straight into a rough draft of a review once I’ve finished a game but The Beginner’s Guide left me just speechless and silent for about a day, just thinking about what I just experienced. That’s when it hit me, The Beginner’s Guide is less of a game and more an experience, and it’s one that is hard to review without giving much away but I’ll do my best to maintain the game’s integrity with spoiling any important parts.
Presentation – I absolutely fell in love with the game’s overall presentation. From the title screen to the end credits, I felt everything fit the script. The game itself begins with a Counter-Strike level and then moves on to different levels of games that all eventually correlate to one another. There is a simple quality to the design in which the levels are made but somehow, that quality makes it all the more profound and meaningful.
The Beginner’s Guide features beautiful somber background tracks as well as some more upbeat tracks. The seriousness or lightheartedness of a level is really emphasized by the track it is tethered to, but the game just seems to strike a perfect balance when it comes to sound design. The game throughout its entirety is accompanied by Davey Wreden’s (The Designer of The Beginner’s Guide) commentary. The way Davey speaks over some of the levels, gives it so much more life than if you would just play them without his insight on them. When playing the game, you can truly hear that Davey’s words are sincere and that he really cares for these games, and somehow makes the you feel the same way.
Gameplay –As insinuated by its name—The Beginner’s Guide, there aren’t any complex mechanics to this game. As a first-person interactive storyteller, the game just needs you to follow its directions and listen to the story it has to tell. The main focus of the game is to introduce the player to small games made by Coda, a friend and videogame developer of Davey Wreden whom he met at a Game Jam in 2009.
The actions themselves are not important in the game, as there is really only one puzzle to solve and no real platforming. It is however, the immersive experience within these games that make The Beginner’s Guide truly special. The story behind the games themselves take you on an emotional roller-coaster. Lighthearted levels that make you laugh-out-loud, quickly transition to darker themed levels that make you rethink perspectives and self-reflect.
The direction of the game does eventually delve into dark concepts and heavy themes but as you go through this journey along with the accompanied commentary, you never feel alone, which is comforting as you play. Due to the mature story-line, the game would feel a lot heavier to take in if played in silence with only your own thoughts and questions to make sense of.
Final Impression – It took me a while to think about the impression that The Beginner’s Guide left on me. I’m not sure I even have one yet. I just know that the game really struck a chord and left me thinking, which is as great of compliment that I can give a game.
As I said earlier, I see The Beginner’s Guide as more of an experience rather than a game. It’s one that I highly recommend to not only gamers but to anyone going through a rough time or even a happy time. The way the game is constructed in showing emotions and states of mind through game development is one that I have never experienced before and am glad to have taken a part in.
The Beginner’s Guide is a game I can confidently say that I will not play again. I don’t need my experience with the game to change for better or for worse. I was left as satisfied finishing the game as I’ve ever been finishing any game, and that’s how I think you know you’ve just played a masterpiece.
+ Atmospheric level and sound design
+ In-depth, great storytelling
+ Sincere, excellent commentary
Final Score – 10/10 Amazing