I’m probably in the minority when I say that I quite enjoy most of what Google puts up on its Arts & Culture app. Experiences that help me to understand and relive history are of particular interest to me, and I’m glad the tech giant is doing its part to preserve history and bring it to life for future generations.
In the past, Google has created many tools and resources to educate, inspire and entertain users, like its “Yatta!” Giga Manga web app, the famous Blob Opera, and these 50 others that I did a round-up of a few years back.
Learning about Mesoamerica
Today, I want to highlight a neat little game that’s appeared on Arts & Culture and is meant to immerse you in the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica. The Descent of the Serpent is a new web-based virtual maze game where you run around a la Tunic-style gameplay and uncover secrets.
Essentially, you’ll retrieve lost objects by walking over them and return them to Chichen Itza in time for the solar equinox (to save the world, of course). At that time, the sun casts a shadow on the carvings in a way that resembles a snake descending the monument’s steps (which is where the game gets its name).
There are four levels to explore and each one has a different terrain (caves, coasts, mountains, and a jungle). As a form of tangential learning, the end of each of these levels features a god who asks you questions about the artifacts you’ve collected.
Worth playing, but it will soon be forgotten
It’s not going to win any awards or anything, but it sure is fun to run around in the game and test it out. I would recommend everyone try it for at least a playthrough. Google is strange because it keeps creating little games like this as one-offs (the Google I/O virtual game as well) but it really would make for a fantastic little indie game developer if it tried harder (and if its very nature didn’t completely contradict the idea of independent game development).
It’s clear to me that there are some fantastic individual game developers at Google who are extremely creative and know what goes into a good game, at least visually. If Google put more money behind them and let them go all out on whatever they wanted, I’m sure they could create some great little ‘indie’ games in the same vein as Tunic and similar titles. After killing off Stadia though, I’m convinced that their talent is likely going to go to waste instead, which is a real shame.
Google’s game dev talent is going to waste
With Outcasters – the only title created by Stadia’s in-house Games & Entertainment branch – being so well done but going nowhere really after its launch, we saw the same thing. There was excellent quality without the backing of those at the top. It’s clear to me that Google as a corporation understands the essence of what makes a great game visually and mechanically, but knows nothing about the spirit and community of gaming, which is all that really matters.
Ultimately, that and the fact that the company haphazardously kills off projects before they have a chance to get their legs is why I don’t think it will ever make games with staying power. Regardless, when we see little gems like Descent of the Serpent or its Google I/O experience, it’s more of a tease of what will never be than anything.