All images were taken from the Forgery game
Among the many indie games and zines that came out in Zine Month there was Forgery. This is a solo journaling experience that has you painting a cursed painting while creating a story, created by Banana Chan, and with a small team behind her. I’ve always really digged the vibe of everything Banana creates, so I was pumped to try this game out. I backed it, and it is only just now that I’ve got the chance to play it. Let me tell you… It’s quite different from other things I’ve tried.
A brief idea of what Forgery actually is
In Forgery, you put yourself in the shoes of Tempest, a girl who’s struggling as a freelance artist in the city of New York. Everyone told you to follow other easier lifestyles, but this is your dream, and you are going to do your best at it. How is it going, though? Poorly. That is until you get a commission to copy a creepy painting of a fiendish creature. You still don’t know it, but that painting is cursed, and things are going to get weird pretty quickly.
Similarly to Choose Your Own Adventure stories, you have to read the zine page by page, jumping from one chapter to another whenever you make a decision. However, there are prompts that constantly appear throughout the text to allow the player to indicate Tempest’s thoughts, responses, and to add depth to her backstory. Then, once Tempest receives the painting commission, you’ll have to paint the cursed painting following a set of instructions. No dice, no character sheet, no cards. Only the rules, a journal, the demonic drawing, and something to paint it with.
I can’t talk about Forgery without putting emphasis on the story being told. The story itself isn’t that different from other tales we have already seen or heard before. However, Forgery goes a step further and makes it not only very adult but heavily emotional as well. In fact, it is so good Carlos Cisco wrote a whole script to possibly create a movie out of this. In many moments during the game, I would feel as if I was playing a Telltale or Life is Strange game. There is a set story to tell, but the decisions you take might allow you to encounter substories that are happening as you play. In the end, like in these sort of stories, you always end up moving along a straight route. You may come and go, but the result leads you to the same focal decisions in the story. Does this mean the game doesn’t allow much freedom? Mmmm… Actually, even though the story being told is similar on every playthrough, the ramifications you choose and the responses to the prompts you give make no two runs alike.
I do believe that what truly makes the story stand on its own and feel really emotional is not only the great writing, but also the prompts. The story puts the character you are roleplaying into all kinds of situations, and in those moments, it may ask you how you react, or what is going through your mind at the moment. Every single time I had to write these what I wrote ended up heavily influencing my later decisions in the story. That makes it much more interactive than a Choose Your Own Adventure book, pretty much at the same level as the story based videogames I named before, maybe even more. It may not end in a whole plethora of different finales like Choose Your Own Adventure books, but still, the story got me hooked til the end. Nevertheless, I don’t think I would replay the game but would love to hear which paths other people took and how their own stories went. The story must have taken me 6 hours to complete from start to finish, but I am a slow reader and don’t paint really fast either, so take that into consideration.
The selling point of the game is the fact that it is not only the protagonist who is painting, but you as the player are also doing it. I didn’t know how much this was going to work for me, but I was astonished to see how much more immersive it made the game. The game comes with the lineart of the painting already done, and it has numbers all over the place so you know what you have to paint at each moment in the story. You can see the drawing below. At certain moments in the story, you will be asked what is going through your mind at the moment and choose from 3 predefined options. One choice is symbolized with warm colors, another one with neutral ones, and lastly, cold colors. Once you have chosen, you must paint all sections in the drawing with the indicated number using only colors from the choice you made. That choice will affect the narrative going forward.
What’s really important about the painting mechanic is how it tells you to do it. First of all, I’ve got to say that I love that one of the very first things you paint in the fiendish creature is the eyes. I could feel as if they were constantly looking at me while I painted them. Secondly, every time the game asks you to paint, it tells you to continue thinking about the decision you chose about how you feel all the time. There were some tough decisions I took, and having a whirlwind of those negative thoughts as I painted hurts. There’s something zen-like when painting that makes it easier for these feelings to get to you easily. The fact that you are always painting with a color associated with the feeling makes it extra powerful. Warm colors are usually tied with strong emotions, and cold ones with sad feelings. One of my last decisions was a depressing one, and the fact that I had to keep thinking about my decision while I painted, and I was using cold colors for that made it feel like a gut punch. If there is one thing I would criticize about this, however, is that at times I felt like I was taking very long to carry on one same feeling or decision in my mind because I had to paint a bunch of things.
You can check my resulting art piece by clicking on the link [HERE]. It may be spoilerish, but not really. Just in case, you are free to enter and see the final disturbing result if you like.
Art & Layout
This is a game about the player playing an artist, and painting, so of course the art needed to be good. There is an art piece at the beginning of every chapter, all creepy or disturbing in some way. They don’t affect the narrative or the game in any way but help grow this feeling of uneasiness in the player, which is what the game is mostly about. As for the layout, the game went with a simplistic route. All pages are flat colors with text on top. The text can be found in many colors, and sometimes even bold, all of these variations to indicate the player must do something, as explained at the beginning of the game.
I’ve never thought a game about painting could affect me this much. At the same time, I got to read a really entertaining story with awesome characters (love you Cody and Kara <3). It was definitely an unforgettable experience and something that definitely makes me excited to see what Banana will make next! If you do enjoy horror, or are looking for something out of the norm, then you should definitely check out Forgery!