Those who keep an eye on the indie sphere (or indeed those of you who have been reading MoeGamer recently) may well already be familiar with one-man development team Stranga Games.
Just Ignore Them is his debut game, and it’s clearly something of a passion project. While in many ways it’s noticeably clunkier than its successors My Big Sister and Red Bow — both mechanically and narratively — it’s still a worthwhile adventure, and one that Stranga has striven to improve with the lessons learned from his subsequent releases.
So let’s take a look at the console release published by Ratalaika Games, which at the time of writing represents the most up-to-date version of the game on offer. Bring a torch.
Just Ignore Them is a point-and-click adventure that begins at bedtime for the eight-year old protagonist Mark. Mark is having a bit of trouble sleeping due to his fear of the monsters that live in the walls and closets of his house. “Just ignore them,” his mother says in that way that parents do — but he knows they’re all too real. Or are they?
In the initial chapter of the game, strange things start happening in Mark’s house once his mother turns the lights off. For one, after she leaves his room, his mother seems to completely disappear, and the house is eerily silent. Unable to sleep thanks to the growing feeling of unease building in his mind, Mark decides to investigate his house and attempt to figure out what is going on.
This section of the game effectively acts as something of a “tutorial”, in that it provides you the opportunity to experiment with the environment and the simple point-and-click controls.
Unlike Stranga’s subsequent games My Big Sister and Red Bow, which use direct character control similar to a top-down RPG, Just Ignore Them uses a cursor-based interface, even on console. While this is a little more cumbersome on a gamepad, it does allow the additional flexibility of discrete “examine” and “action” buttons, as well as the ability to easily sweep a room for interactive hotspots without having to walk all over it.
One of the ways you can tell this was Stranga’s first game is through this interface. Although you can examine and attempt to interact with most hotspots, many such attempts will be met with a generic “I see nothing special about it” or “I can’t do anything with it” response. In a few cases, there are completely useless hotspots that don’t even provide a bit of flavour text when you examine them; in others, there are some that just don’t appear to work at all — although in this latter case, this usually means that they will work once a particular trigger event has occurred.
None of this is game-breaking by any means, but coming across it really makes you appreciate how Stranga applied the things he learned from this first game to his subsequent projects. It’s pretty interesting to be able to see a developer hone his craft in this way.
Since Just Ignore Them is rather short, just like the other Stranga games, I’ll refrain from spoiling too much of the plot, but I will say this: it’s clear that this story means a great deal to him. It’s certainly an ambitious affair that deals with matters such as childhood trauma, learning to trust and love again, and the morality of prolonging life beyond what it’s “supposed” to be.
The story is mostly explored through Mark’s adult life as he attempts to deal with the aftermath of the events from his childhood in the prologue. He finds himself quite literally running from his past, which appears to have taken the form of a horrifying white-faced monster with a penchant for bloody violence, and he finds himself constantly asking who he should trust — if anyone.
Key to the narrative is a young woman named Brea, who Mark encounters when he stays overnight at a shabby old motel. In what feels like a nod to horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, Brea is quite heavily sexualised despite being a dumpy little pixel-art figure — you first encounter her by inadvertently peeping on her in the shower, and subsequently burst into her room before she’s finished dressing herself — but she quickly proves herself to be quite the capable heroine in her own right. Indeed, she even gets a chapter all of her own later in the game, and she is crucial to the two possible conclusions to the whole story.
Things escalate quite quickly over the course of the game’s short run-time, and it could have perhaps benefited from a little additional fleshing out of things like the background of the various monsters, but the overall conclusion is satisfying and believable within the context of that which came previously — regardless of if you get the “good” or the “bad” ending.
Determining which of the two endings you’re going to get is a little tricky, since it’s determined by quite a few choices and optional actions you can take throughout the game, though in most cases it’s reasonably obvious whether a choice is “good” or “bad”. Do you give the secretly recorded tape of Brea in the shower to Brea herself or the pervy dude who recorded it? Hmm, tricky.
There are a few peculiar holes in the plot, too, which Stranga has apparently attempted to patch over since the game’s original release on PC; check the original release’s Steam forums, and you can see that there are some discussions of narrative inconsistencies in the game that are no longer present. Stranga admitted the story in the original release was “very rushed, especially the ending” but also noted that “it is still one of my favourite stories I’ve written (even if it doesn’t make sense)”.
The most notable hole that remains is the fact that in one scene, Mark tells Brea that they’re going to visit a guy called “Dan”, but when you actually arrive there, Mark refers to “Dave” instead. I initially thought this was just a typo or a lapse of memory — heaven knows I’ve written enough stories where I’ve forgotten characters’ names partway through — but the disparity between the names is obviously deliberate. Specifically, it is addressed directly in three optional collectible tapes you can discover hidden throughout the game — but it doesn’t quite explain why Mark refers to one and then the other in the main context of the narrative, nor does it feel like the narrative adequately acknowledges this. It feels like something Brea would comment on, for sure!
Despite the few remaining inconsistencies like this, the whole thing does still hang together as a satisfying and atmospheric adventure that it is enjoyable to experience — and as a debut project from a solo developer, I can certainly forgive a few rough edges.
If you plan on checking out Stranga’s work for yourself, though — and I’d definitely say it’s a worthwhile use of a few hours — then you might want to make this your first port of call.
The MoeGamer Compendium, Volume 1 is now available! Grab a copy today for a beautiful physical edition of the Cover Game features originally published in 2016.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
If you’d like to support the site and my work on it, please consider becoming a Patron — click here or on the button below to find out more about how to do so. From just $1 a month, you can get access to daily personal blog updates and exclusive members’ wallpapers featuring the MoeGamer mascots.