I quite like some of Tale of Tales’ other work.
The Endless Forest, for example, hits what a “not-game” should be, by giving you an interesting interactive forest full of other people, and letting you run free with no objective.
In Bientôt l’été, you are given two things - a beach that looks quite pretty, where you’re all alone and you mainly just walk and observe, and a pub of some sort, where you try to communicate with a single stranger using preset French phrases, while drinking virtual wine that looks a bit more like red jello.
These two things barely touch each other. One could say that it is in fact two projects - Beach Simulator, and Spouting French At Dudes Simulator.
Beach Simulator is lovely. The “collecting chess pieces” part of it is a very poorly designed distraction, but ignoring that, it looks nice and really conveys all the right moods and feelings. Seeing the full expanse of the beach from side to side is an interesting experience your first time, with the right sorts of surprises. Sitting on a bench gives you an interesting screensaver, if you’re playing fullscreen and suddenly have to rush off to meet the president. There’s not much else to say. It’s been done before and it’ll be done again, but nice things are nice, I guess.
The pub of Spouting French At Dudes Simulator (SFADS) has atmosphere just as well-crafted as the beach - the radio plays faintly in the background, cigarette smoke drifts across the table as you exhale, and you can even rather viscerally knock the pieces over. Your gaze is fixed firmly on the chess board, which is actually the visual representation of your conversation with your mystery man from the internet. You shift the pieces around in circles to speak a set of very limited phrases. I don’t really know how I feel about SFADS - it’s very restrictive, and my main response to it all happening is “Let me out of this seat so I can see the rest of the bloody pub”. Staring at the representation of this near-meaningless roundabout conversation we’re having is a cool idea in theory, but I didn’t get into it at all, and enjoyed the actual physical location much more.
Both sections are wrapped in a nice Matrixy miniplot that also intrigued me - atmosphere’s straight across the board in this notgame, absolutely stellar.
The experience as a whole? Less than stellar. As the pub (people are saying it’s actually a café?) is only for the lackluster conversation feature, the only long-term enjoyment you’d get is from sitting/walking on the beach, watching the scenery. This essentially makes this a screensaver. I have no problems with screensaver-style nongames, but it could have been a lot better. It could have been, generally, more.
One addition that naturally comes to mind is “Let us actually play chess!”. A chess game with this much atmosphere would be amazing; I’d never use anything else. Therein lies the problem, of course: adding actual chess would make this “a chess game”, which was obviously not the intention. It is what it is.
So if you want an atmospheric screensaver-style notgame about walking across a beach and looking up at the stars of the future, here it is. Bit pricey for $10, you’d probably be better off just getting an actual screensaver, but who am I to argue?