As an entry for the Ludum Dare 33 "You are the monster" challenge, Ian MacLarty's Totem gives us a literal interpretation of being the monster. With that literal-mindedness we get a bit extra as well.
Totem may appear as just another simple side scroller with only the most modest of plots possible. You are a massive stone giant rising out of the sea and, apparently tasked with ridding an island of its inhabitants. Your heavy footsteps draw attention quickly, as the islanders attempt to swarm you. They run around angrily hurling spears at you to no effect, so you may take your time in the destruction of these people, and I took great pleasure and satisfaction in the butt-stomp drop attack's weight shaking the ground and launching the poor tiny souls through the air.
The art design is quite fitting, evoking a strange mystic island feel created with washed out colors and a mist covering much of the land. Adding to this is the music- eerie and alien, adding a nice layer to the strange atmosphere.
Simple controls make the extremely short playtime nice and breezy. Honestly, I only have one small complaint about this game. It has a rather vague goal. Something flies off at the beginning and you presumably need to follow it, but it just disappears. To truly know what I was supposed to do I searched the entire map, and then went back to crushing the islanders, and only then did I realize what actually is happening. So the lack of directional clarity isn't really bad, but an oddly welcome frustration.
As I said, it's not a bad thing, just a little confusing, because the game sort of just stops instead of having a clear cut ending. Then again, maybe that air of mystery adds to why Totem is appealing. It's left open to our interpretation, and it makes the game just a little bit more than what it appears to be. It makes me question weather we can be a monster by being ourselves and tangentially ruining other lives. Something akin to a person stepping on an ant hill. Totem leaves me contemplating the fact that we can all monsters in a way.
Play [ Totem ]