An artful exploration of anxiety, depression, and overcoming emotional curses.
Developer: Ozzie Sneddon
Publisher: Ozzie Sneddon
Release date: 27 August, 2021
From the developer of Existensis and taking place in the same universe, The Müll Littoral was originally created in 2017 but only released on Steam in August 2021. Ozzie Sneddon has built a vivid and multifaceted high fantasy universe. In addition to the two distinctive game genres of The Müll Littoral and Existensis, he has also utilized graphic novelization and other artistic media to tell the stories of this world.
Juul spends day after day at the beach, suffering from a curse of anxiety that, unbeknownst to her, is affecting the world at large. One day she is approached by Glasswalker, a practitioner of the Empathy Arts, using the power of understanding the universe to edit reality, and together they embark on a pilgrimage to break the curse.
The Müll Littoral takes place in “The Age of Empathy” universe, a fantasy post-apocalyptic Earth where the world has reformed into a place inhabited by tulpas called Thoughtforms, beings that originated in the imagination and then manifested in physical form. Occurring chronologically earlier but in the same universe as the game Existensis, The Müll Littoral shows the backstory for some of the characters who later appear in Existensis. There’s even a reference to the main character of Existensis, although he makes no appearance in this game.
The story takes place over three acts, and while it is dealing with abstract concepts in the same way as Existensis, the focus on the themes of anxiety and depression means it’s darker in tone and not as lighthearted despite taking place in the same colorful fantasy world. For this reason, I think The Müll Littoral is best played after Existensis despite occurring chronologically earlier.
Gameplay and Mechanics
The player mostly acts as the character Juul, although there is one challenge where Glasswalker takes center stage. While Existensis is a platformer, The Müll Littoral is more of a point-and-click adventure. Most challenges start with time frozen as the player uses a lens to examine the environment. As information and clues are collected, the player can form a plan of what they need to do once they put the lens away and time starts again. Once time starts again, the player has a short amount of time to click on objects in the correct order at the correct time to solve the puzzle and get the desired outcome to progress the story. Failing a challenge simply leads to retrying as many times as are needed.
In the puzzles that have a timing aspect, there is logic to the sequence, so it isn’t just randomly clicking and hoping that everything works out. The player interprets the clues in the provided information, and when it all comes together in a successful solution, it is a unique and fun way to utilize point-and-click genre mechanics. Not all puzzles have a timing aspect to them, but even though I am usually not a fan of timed challenges, in this case I feel that the timing aspect makes sense considering the game’s theme of anxiety. Some of the challenges involve battling issues related to this theme, such as insomnia and social anxiety.
The game unfortunately doesn’t have a way to save progress, but the player can select from one of three acts to jump to different points in the story and avoid some replaying if desired.
Art Style and Graphics
The Müll Littoral was created before Existensis, and I can see how Ozzie Sneddon’s artistic skills have grown over the years. Much like his more recent game, the art and animation are done by hand in a traditional style, and the world is a colorful fantasy feast for the eyes. Each character’s dialogue text has a unique font and speech bubble. Unfortunately, I did find the volume control on the screen immersion-breaking, but overall that is a minor quibble.
Sound and Music
Just as with Existensis, although the music doesn’t get mentioned in the promotion text for The Müll Littoral, it is one of the best parts. The music is perfectly themed for the mood (e.g., anxiety) and/or ambience (e.g., tavern) of each scene or challenge in the way that will best tell the story, and I frequently found the tracks stuck in my head long after playing the game. Similar to how the art and animation is done in a traditional style, the music is a shout out to retro video game soundtracks, utilizing classic instrumentation with electronic components. There is no voice acting or other sound effects; the game chooses to rely on the music for the auditory component of the experience.
Although The Müll Littoral has no achievements as of the time of review, it does have hidden/secret content to extend the game. Each of the two main storyline endings will give a password when completed, and entering those using the Password Input on the loading screen will give clues to unlock the hidden ending. Completing the hidden ending will also give a password, and inputting that password will give clues to unlock a secret bonus level.
At $4.99 at time of review and approximately 1.5 hours for a first playthrough (2 hours to get all endings and hidden/secret content if using acts option to jump ahead in the story), The Müll Littoral is well worth buying at full price. Although it occurs in the same universe and chronologically before Existensis, I would actually recommend playing Existensis first to get a broader view of the world as The Müll Littoral dives deeper into the lore and characters. I know that Ozzie Sneddon has other projects in this universe, although I’m not sure if any of them are games. Regardless, I will be eager to return to this world again if another game is released.