Ephemerid: A Musical Adventure – What We Think
Part rhythm game, part puzzle game and all animated rock video, Ephemerid is a beautifully animated interactive experience set to energetic electric guitar. While a little brief and a little light on substantial challenge, its poignant, wordless storytelling makes it memorable and meaningful nonetheless.
Two-man Texas studio SuperChop Games began Ephemerid as an experiment in creating games without language or controls in the typical sense—even the opening screen is a puzzle which must be solved to begin the game proper—and for the most part, this works well. The puzzles and rhythmic controls feel organic to the game’s story of the life of a mayfly (the insect famous for its one-day lifespan), and on-screen glimmers give hints if you get stuck.
It’s also quite forgiving; while some of the more rhythm game-inspired elements get almost blindingly fast, there’s no penalty in screwing up beyond the fact that you might miss out on a few achievements if you’re playing the Steam version; the story continues on regardless.
There is one minor quibble with the controls. Originally designed for iPad, Ephemerid is definitely optimized for touchscreen use, so the more frantic sections can be tough to manage with the mouse; moves that are easily made with finger swipes across a small screen turn out to be quite a lot harder when clicking and dragging a mouse across a large one. With no penalties or even online leaderboards with which to compete however, this is much less of an issue than it could have been.
Righteous Riffs and Poignant Papercuts
In any case, Ephemerid’s rhythm and puzzle game elements aren’t entirely the point; they’re really there to provide some interactivity to what would otherwise be an album-length music video. What a video, though! Lead programmer Matt Meyer also recorded the soundtrack, and it’s all classical-infused progressive rock guitar—not sedate classical, either, but the technical, high speed virtuoso stuff—and symphonic sweeps that are emotional without devolving into schmaltz.
Brent Calhoun, who handled the art and design work, creates a delicate yet solid-feeling world of painted glass and cut paper, with simple shapes and muted earth tones evoking a small but very alive natural world punctuated by bursts of psychedelic fireworks. The end result is something like children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle (of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame) crossed with Joe Satriani.
Clocking in at just under an hour, it’s as ephemeral as its title suggests, but it’s a gorgeous little gem, pretty without being precious and genuinely emotional without being melodramatic, in spite (or more likely because of) its total lack of language. It’s hardly hardcore, but with the current glut of brutal rogue-likes and even more brutal retro platformers, it’s nice to sit down for a little while, listen to the music and watch a simple insect love story play out.
Watch the trailer for Ephemerid: A Musical Adventure below: