Something to Watch: “HENRi” & “Atropa”

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The very nature of the independent, low-budget films that I like to talk about means that the concepts are usually pretty grounded. A lot of the more fantastical settings and stories that catch my geeky eye, such as science-fiction, fantasy, or superheroes, tend to go unexplored. It’s a wonder, then, that I’m only now finding out about the works of filmmaker Eli Sasich. It’s not often I get to talk about space-based films, so here we go!

Atropa

Let’s start off with Sasich’s latest project, a proof-of-concept short film released just a few days ago. Inspired by such sci-fi films as Alien and Blade Runner, Atropa takes a look at a detective investigating the disappearance of a research vessel. With some nice performances and a lot of really impressive effects, this is a fascinating watch.

HENRi

Consider the last video a pre-show to the feature presentation. This twenty-minute short film received it’s funding through a Kickstarter campaign back in 2010. After two years of production and a year of touring the festivals, it’s finally been released online.

HENRi uses a combination of small-scale sets, puppetry and live-action to tell the tragic but heartwarming story of a lonely robot left to ponder the meaning of human nature. Some beautiful cinematography, heartbreaking performances and a passionate score allow this film to really shine. Whether you’re a sci-fi nut like me or a philosophical enthusiast, this is a must-watch.

Click the link below to watch on Vimeo.

For those of you who still want something you can play in this post, I’ve got something extra for you. Before the release of HENRi, the short video I Dream Electric was released. Seeming to be the sort of prototype to HENRiElectric contains some of the opening fottage from the last short, and acts as a great music video for “Everything Speaks” by Diamond Rings.

When all is said and done, this is one filmmaker to keep an eye on.

For more on Eli Sasich’s work, you can visit his Vimeo page.

Something to Play: “Cloud Chamber”

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First of all, I’ve gotta give a shout-out to the folks at Extra Credits, a YouTube show that discusses the evolution of video games from a developer’s point-of-view. It’s because of their recent episode “Interactive Video” (which you can watch here,) that I even heard of today’s game. It’s a very well thought-out out show and if you’re really into indie games, they have a spin-off, James Recommends, that’s all about that.

Anyhow, the game I’m talking about this week is called Cloud Chamber, and I honestly haven’t played any other game that’s anything like it. Here’s the concept: A filmmaker has been developing a documentary about a secret laboratory that’s on the verge of a scientific breakthrough to end all breakthroughs. However, after a strange and disastrous happening, he decides to upload everything he has gathered to an online database, represented here as a 3D landscape, with the height of the landscape signifying the importance of the information. Your job as the player is to investigate all of this information and work with all of the other players to determine what happened and in what order.

Still with me? Great. It’s best summarized as a massively-multiplayer mystery game. Every node of information, be it audio, video, or article, has a comment section built into it. By participating in the community and adding things to the discussion that people find worthwhile, you unlock more information to further discuss.

If you ever had an in-depth discussion with your friends after watching a deeply thought-provoking movie, you know what this is like. Cloud Chamber takes that kind of conversation and implements it into every part of the story it’s trying to tell. It’s very detailed, too, with subtle clues sometimes being the only indicator of a clip being before another clip, or after it.

This is not a game for everyone. If you prefer games with more direct interactivity, or if you’re not one to converse through message boards, you should probably look elsewhere. It’s not perfect, either. There’s some overacting in the clips and I still can’t tell if one of the main character’s accent is supposed to be American or British.

But Cloud Chamber is definitely one of the most unique and creative concepts for a game I’ve seen in quite some time. At a $20 price tag, it might be a little pricey for those not sure if this new kind of game is something they’d enjoy. But if you’re looking for a game that’s nothing like what you’ve played before, it might just be worth the price of admission.

You can pick up Cloud Chamber on Steam here.