This Quirky 3-D Explorer Game Is Best Played in Small Doses
Designer/animator Julian Glander is known for oddball animated GIFs inspired by Claymation. His Gumby-like animations have appeared in all sorts of places, including music videos, Subway commercials and Starbucks ads.
And now they’ve graced a game, designed in collaboration with programmer Eugene Burd. A $7.99 Steam Greenlight project arriving November 10, Lovely Weather We’re Having is an open-ended, abstractly clayish world, in which you play as a woman locked out of her house and left to amble through a neighborhood of sorts.
That’s the entire setup, and even that is only something you could glean if you read the game’s Steam description. There’s no intro sequence, no tutorial, just poof, you outside your house beside a little dog ready to go on promenade using the WASD keys.
Glander says he designed the game to be “endlessly” playable in brief 10- to 20-minute bursts. That feels about right. Any more and you’d probably demur.
But during those explorative vignettes, genuine curiosity ensues. Why locked out? Where is this place? Who are these others you encounter? Is that your dog or an affectionate stray? Why is everyone’s door locked? Why does some flora make music when you bump it, but not others?
What about you, with your bouffant coif and three-dots-for-eyelashes and blink-less stare? Who are you?
You’re left to fill in those blanks yourself. You’ll find no mysteries to solve, no puzzles to unlock, no enemies to battle, and no deeper import beyond whatever mood you cast back at the screen. Birds chirrup and insects drone soothingly. You can nudge tiny shapes around for the sake of nudging them.
Snow descends like a scrolling star field, pixel-flakes lingering on the ground for a few seconds before vanishing. The sky is unseen, but an imagined sun angles shadows around. The patter of rain reaches down into your brain and relaxes something. Left running in the background, you might mistake Lovely Weather We’re Having for one of those CDs of nature sounds.
Those weather patterns are actually based on your local weather conditions, adding an ambient, personal wrinkle that ripples through the environment. If it’s raining wherever you are, it’ll rain in the game. If it’s snowing outside your window, it’s snowing in the game, too.
Morning, evening, hot or cold, it’s all picked up and refracted by the game dynamically. You can’t fiddle with any of those variables in the settings, either, because there are no settings.
…Okay, that’s not entirely true: There’s a cheat code, if you absolutely must summon a magician-behind-the-curtain panel with checkboxes and sliders mapping all the potential conditions and permutations. But it’s a cheat code and not a feature because using it undermines what I think Lovely Weather We’re Having is up to.
It’s a “3-D explorer,” yes, but within the constraints of a smallish world with hard edges (as opposed to something that just keeps going). It’s more about playing for those few minutes, quitting, then coming back after the time or weather’s modulated, wherever you are. Change is the reward, but you have to wait for it.
If you play this game on its terms, you’ll notice that the individuals you can talk to by tapping the Enter key have different things to say. Not random gobbledygook, but bits of playfully existential musing that add to the sense of surreality, extending an experience that often feels like an audiovisual soundboard for whatever thoughts percolate up.
If you’re receptive to those thoughts, Lovely Weather We’re Having is in a sense about the lovely weather you’re having, the sort of interior weather patterns that develop when we wander.
So just one question: Why isn’t Lovely Weather We’re Having on mobile devices? The Unity-driven engine’s graphically simple enough to run on any modern device, and the elementary move/speak controls seem readymade for touch. I guess this is my only objection—that the game feels out of sorts on a desktop computer. I’d play it a lot more if I could just pick up my phone and check in every once in a while. It just doesn’t feel like a sit-at-my-desk-and-click kind of game.
But if you’re willing—and I certainly was, maybe because I’ve been playing so much Minecraft, which has all sorts of ambient parallels—Lovely Weather is a clever little mood stimulator on the contemplative end of the scale, a kind of dynamic Zen box. You open it and poke around a little and maybe close it, thinking “Is that all?”
And then you come back, and the weather’s different, and the time of day’s just so, and it takes your breath away.