Review by GeoX

Reviewed: 10/31/01 | Updated: 10/31/01

Pure videogame Zen

Tail of the Sun is one of the very few True Originals--nothing even remotely like it has ever been made, before or since (note how I'm selectively ignoring Aquanaut's Holiday, as it contradicts my thesis). Many people hate it, and it's easy to see why: if you try to force it to adhere to your conception of what a game should be, it will seem absolutely nonsensical. While you do technically have a 'goal,' it isn't at all emphasized, and indeed actually working to 'win' is just about the least satisfying way to play the game. No, here is Tail of the Sun in a nutshell:

Me cave[wo]man. Me run around. Me hunt animals. Me eat plants. Me jump. Me swim. Me sleep. Me die.

Yes, Tail of the Sun consists entirely of running around a massive 3-D world. No story, no character interaction, no clearly-defined (or indeed, defined at all) goals. It sounds like an unmitigated disaster. And indeed, for the first five minutes or so of playing, I had the sinking feeling that I'd just wasted thirty-five dollars. But then! It starts to work on you. You run around, admiring the scenery, marvelling at the many types of flora (designed after Japanese sugar cookies, apparently) lying around for your consumption. They aren't just randomly scattered about, though; different types of plants are more common in different areas, which helps to give them a unique feel. The same is true of animals, of which there are a wide variety (and I've never even met bats or penguins...), and which also come in different colors, depending on the environment. You climb mountains. You splash through lakes and streams. You swim to remote islands in the sea. And it's all supported by graphics that, while crude, definitely have style (a trait missing from most games), and a minimalistic but effective soundtrack; be sure to pop the disc into a CD player for some rather kickass music (and I'd almost SWEAR that the 'we wanna be free' voice sample is the same one used as part of the intro in Primal Scream's 'Loaded'...).

Is it fun? Oh yes. It's unbelievably fun. As previously noted, however, the non-goal-oriented gameplay immediately puts a lot of people off. You really have to put aside your preconceptions of what a videogame 'should' be in order to enjoy it. This oughtn't to be terribly hard for the open-minded. And once you've done it: hours of enjoyment await. Hats off to Artdink for challenging our ideas about what a game can be--and for letting American gamers in on the challenge, no less. This is art.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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