Review: Prose & Codes – Movies Games and Tech
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If you ask someone what they think of video games, chances are the answer won’t be reading or anything related to books. After all, video games as a medium are all about interactivity, so when someone thinks of video games, they’re most likely thinking of a new release, an action-packed adventure, or to a captivating game that stuck with him. their chairs and sofas for countless hours. However, every once in a while there comes a game that tries to do something new, or brings a fresh take on already established mechanics and ideas, and those games manage to create a special spark.
For the overwhelming majority of these creative cases, I would dare say that indie games dominate this realm. Every once in a while I come across a few games that may not have widespread appeal, but they will stick with me for years to come. For 2022, it looks like the first of these games will be Prose and codesa game where you just have to decipher extracts from various books.
It’s such a simple concept, but I can’t think of any other game that has tried to do something like this. The whole game is about solving substitution ciphers, where each letter of the alphabet has been replaced by a random letter, and it’s up to you to find the solution to each one. The game features a total of 350 figures, to be exact, and these are spread evenly across seven different genders. There’s adventure, kids, science fiction, drama, notable, mystery, and horror.
There’s pretty much something for everyone, and what’s even better is that once you solve a cipher, not only do you unlock a synopsis of the original book, but the game rewards you with done by providing a direct link to the book page on Project Gutenberg. A lot of people might be familiar with this project, but, in case you aren’t, it’s basically a massive preservation effort that aims to store literary works in digital form and, therefore, distribute online for free, for everyone.
Somehow I feel like Prose and codes tries to rekindle that taste for reading that, perhaps, many people have lost over the years. The truth is that many people, myself included, have found that certain video games have cultivated or sparked a long-lost interest in something, namely reading. For me, that was the case with text-heavy visual novels and RPGs. However, Prose and codes is perhaps the best example of how you can capture someone’s attention through interactive media and lure them into the literary realm.
The snippets the developers chose for each of the numbers seem to have been carefully chosen in order to draw people into the various literary works. It’s almost as if each number is a tiny window through which you can only glimpse another world and another story. However, the great thing about it is that these worlds are only a few clicks away. It really is quite wonderful. I have certainly added quite a few books to my Reading list which is only getting bigger.
Regardless, Prose and codes stands out as a good game on its own, even if we don’t count its link with the Project Gutenberg. There isn’t really an ever-increasing degree of cipher difficulty that culminates in a massive cipher that would supposedly represent some sort of boss fight, but the game gives you plenty of tools to tailor the experience to your liking.
There are four different difficulty modes, Easy, Medium, Hard, and Progressive. Easy will reveal six letters from the start, while Medium will reveal three and Hard will keep them all hidden. Meanwhile, Progressive will make things harder for you as you work your way through each genre of literature.
As a non-native English speaker who learned English on his own by playing games, reading and watching TV shows and movies while growing up, I have to admit that I spent far too much time trying to switch my first cipher to Hard. I then switched to progressive, but my success there was also short-lived. That’s when I settled on Medium, because starting with a few letters already revealed was a big help. Also, you can always ask the game for a hint, and the game will then reveal a single letter to you, but you can only do this three times per number.
There were plenty of times when I just couldn’t figure out some numbers, and when I finally gave in to temptation and asked for a hint, it all started to make sense and it was like a stream of words that were going through my head as I furiously finished the rest of the encryption because then I could easily figure out what was missing. Sometimes all you need is a little helping hand. In fact, there’s also an option to make text bigger, and there’s even a dark mode. I really feel like the developers put a lot of thought into everything, but in my experience the game can’t just be played on a mouse or keyboard, you have to use both.
While these difficulty options are great, it’s worth noting that the game always presents you with the books in the same order, no matter what difficulty you’re playing or if you’re starting a new game. Therefore, once you’ve cleared all 350 digits, there’s no incentive to go back and try everything again on a harder difficulty, as you’ll likely remember everything from your first playthrough.
I really wish there were more ciphers in the game, or for the game to always generate a random cipher in case someone wants to replay the game, but I guess that’s just not something doable to implement. Likewise, the dreamer version of me wishes that, in an ideal world, this game was simply a tool that would allow everyone to add their own snippets and ciphers to the game and share it with others. Maybe an idea for the future?
In the end, there’s really nothing in the game that I would change, even if I could. Prose and codes is something quite special, not because it’s revolutionary in game mechanics, but because it excels at being exactly what it was meant to be. The ambience with background music and sound effects are phenomenal, and while puzzles might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s sure to be a very niche audience who will absolutely love it for this that it is.
Prose and codes worth more than its asking price. Nevertheless, I want to highlight the fact that the developers mention that “a portion of every sale goes to Project Gutenberg”but I couldn’t find any concrete information on the amount of “portion” is in fact. Nevertheless, the fact that game sales support the Project Gutenberg is just the icing on the cake. If you’re an avid reader and enjoy solving puzzles, this is sure to be a great addition to your digital library.