“Art games” have a somewhat polarising reputation among the broader gaming community. Some love how far creators are willing to stretch the definition of “game” in order to tell a story or explore a theme; others feel like these titles are a boring waste of time.
I’ve gone back and forth a bit on this over the years, but one thing most art games have in common is that they tend to de-emphasise mechanical depth and complexity in favour of telling their story. In some of the most well-regarded cases, you don’t even really “do” anything; you just walk forwards while a story passively washes over you.
198X is a bit different. It’s definitely an art game — or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a short, animated, pixel-art film — but unlike many of its peers, it’s designed to be satisfying and enjoyable to play as well as to emotionally engage with. Let’s take a closer look.