Slip Space: The Burma-Shave Analogy

Posted by Gustavo Calvo-Simmons.
First posted on 07 August 2011. Last updated on 07 August 2011.
Have an opinion? Leave a comment!

Slip Space: The Burma-Shave Analogy
The Strategic Intelligence Alliance is a secret government organization with a shady agenda.
Slip Space: The Burma-Shave Analogy
Cryptic messages craft up metaphysical references to a real life advertising campaign.
Slip Space: The Burma-Shave Analogy
A city lies in the distance across the desert land.
Slip Space: The Burma-Shave Analogy
The strange house of the Golden Age of Advertising is not a portal to a publicity campaign but a gateway to the universe.
Slip Space: The Burma-Shave Analogy
The surrealistic graphics give a mysterious and futuristic veil to the game's true intent.

Indie developer Dan Markosian has created a gem of a point-and-click sci-fi adventure. There are many choice words that can be used to describe Slip Space: The Burma Shave Analogy—strange, odd, futuristic, retro, and even avant-garde. There is, however, a single word that best describes my overall impression of this game—clever.

For veteran adventure fan, the game will immediately bring back memories of gaming from the 1990s during the dominance of point-and-click adventure games. Although this game may share only little in common with the classic games of yesteryear, what little they share in their style is a clear throwback to a bygone era of classic adventure gaming.

The game is decidedly clever, largely because the puzzles in it are all based on logic, observation, and deduction that require you to carefully analyze every single element of a scene where each puzzle is located. Further, these puzzles do not stand in isolation from each other. There is an overarching story that is scarcely told through a series of cut scenes which ties all of the puzzles together.

Alas, the puzzles in this game can be quite hard, especially if you do not have the patience to analyze the accompanying scene first before jumping into a puzzle. It is critical that every scene be scrutinized for clues, since you will need them to solve some of the more difficult puzzles. An example is from early in the game where you have to be attentive to the pattern of the planet before a code is revealed to you. Much of the logic of the puzzles is mathematically based. The mathematics required to solve them are not overtly complex, though a knowledge in summation, subtraction, prime numbers, and even factorization is required if you want to succeed.

The game's back story about shifting temporal perception is admittedly difficult to comprehend. In general, the narrative is given through a series of cut scenes which together gradually exposes the main plotline, using surrealistic references that defy what is real and what is imaginary. Most of the story is set on an unnamed planet. You play a nameless character who is an agent of a secret organization named S.I.A. (Strategic Intelligence Alliance). As the game begins, you wake up finding yourself in near total desolation when you realize that the government has implanted a chip inside your brain, coercing you into fulfilling a mission no matter of what the consequences may be. Although the finer details of this back story are lacking at times, there are still enough pieces revealed to you so that you have a fair idea of the fate of your character long before the game ends. The hints given through the narrative also help to tie the different puzzles together that will ultimately solve the mystery behind the so-called Burma-Shave Analogy.

It is amazing to know that the entire game has been masterminded and developed by a single individual. The graphics can look a bit rough, though they also lend to add a retro feel. The voice acting is also subpar. Still, playing this game is like playing a classic graphic adventure but with more contemporary refinements in the narrative and other production details such as background and incidental sounds.

Much of the appeal of this game lies in the retro style that will appease many old school gamers. The game conveys an eerie atmosphere by use of a surreal color palette and imagery which give the impression that the entire world is seen through the eyes of a madman.

A little piece of real life history explains the origin of the game's name: the Burma-Shave advertising campaign is a popular series of advertisement appeared in America from the 1920s until the 1950s. The ads employ a series of small sign posts that are displayed in sequence along the roadside of interstate highways. These ads play with the senses and perceptions of motor vehicle drivers passing by such that each sign shows only a small segment of the whole advertising message so that what is being sold is only revealed in the end. So what is the analogy drawn between the ads and the game? As the game progresses on, more and more information is revealed in piecemeal about the true mission with which you are involved and the futuristic nightmare against which you are faced.

Overall, Slip Space: The Burma Shave Analogy is a fantastic indie game. It is also a beautiful piece of retro art. The challenging logic puzzles will test the intellect of even the most demanding and experienced adventure gamer. If you have difficulty dealing with mathematical or perceptional puzzles, there is a good chance that you will get stuck in this game for a long time.

• (1) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink