Air Pressure

Games are nothing if not messages of relentless optimism. If you do the all the right things, play by all the right rules and do what's expected of you, everything will turn out alright in the end. There's very few games that violate this unspoken rule of game development: The good players get the happy ending. Nowhere is the oddness of this rule more apparent than in the Japanese Dating Sim genre. If you just buy all the right gifts and say all the right things, the girl will love you forever?

Air Pressure is basically a Japanese Dating Sim, in which you choose what to say in a conversation with a girl; however, the first screen of Air Pressure makes it clear that you've already got the girl. You've been dating since you were both teenagers. Your character is … ambivalent about this. Exactly how he feels about the relationship is really up to you and your choices about how to respond to his girlfriend.

The melancholy storyline is told through simple, beautiful pixelated art and a sweet, if haunted, 8-bit chiptune soundtrack. It feels nostalgic and sad while still maintaining the innocence that runs under the story of two teenagers in love. Or maybe not so much love as co-dependence. Depends.

Air Pressure doesn't try to turn the game into a linear path towards the right ending. There are only three endings, but many, many branches to the story. It's short, possibly taking only 5 minutes to finish, but there are numerous paths to take in the storyline. Which fits the ambiguous story to a tee.

Why You Should Check This Out: Air Pressure is a game that's not a tale of a triumphant hero, but of a young man trying to figure out his relationship with his teenage sweetheart. The constantly branching, ambiguous story combines with the sweet-but-nostalgic art style and creates a poignant experience. Few games try to tackle subject matter as nebulous as this, even fewer succeed as well as this 5-minute game.

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Comments

Little hint, use the space bar, not enter key to progress the text.

Using enter selects the answer before the dialogue choice even pops up.

Anytime someone tells me the story and symbols behind the gameplay don't really matter, I think of games like this. It's basically a dating sim, but the story completely turns the gameplay on it's head. It's interesting to see how quickly the gameplay turns on you simply because you're not relentlessly trying to pursue the most obvious goal in front of you.

a young man trying to figure out his relationship with his teenage sweetheart

That's... not quite what this game is about, although it is what it *appears* to be about.

Maybe you were hiding spoilers, but I think people should be aware that if you explore all of the branches, or at least more than one... the context of this game changes substantially. There's quite a twist that I won't spoil, but when you grok it, it's really stunning.

Ahem.

If you do the all the right things, play by all the right rules and do what's expected of you, everything will turn out alright in the end.

Nethack.

That is all.

So, I'll ask the obvious questions:

Spoiler:
What's up with Leigh flickering at the end of some scenes?

And what was the significance of the hospital scene? I get that the narrator attempted suicide, but I don't quite understand how that relates back to the decisions made in the previous scene.

Nathaniel wrote:
Ahem.

If you do the all the right things, play by all the right rules and do what's expected of you, everything will turn out alright in the end.

Nethack.

That is all.

Don't you transcend in roguelikes? Still a fairly happy ending.
Frohike wrote:
Maybe you were hiding spoilers, but I think people should be aware that if you explore all of the branches, or at least more than one... the context of this game changes substantially. There's quite a twist that I won't spoil, but when you grok it, it's really stunning.
Yes I try to avoid discussing anything beyond the premise in the article with branching story-based games because I don't want to ruin it for anyone.
Hypatian wrote:
a young man trying to figure out his relationship with his teenage sweetheart

That's... not quite what this game is about, although it is what it *appears* to be about.

Spoiler:
Do you mean that's not what it's about or literally she's not his girlfriend? I played through a few times and while I never got absolute proof they were dating, I never got the impression otherwise

Spoiler:
I feel as though it's a metaphor for some sort of drug addiction or something similar that would have the narrator tied down—in fact, after playing through again, I'd say heroin or something other kind of IV drug ("she wrapped herself around my left arm": the arm most junkies would inject into, being right-handed). It seems to explain the "I need it, I can't live without it" and at the same time "I need to push away, I don't want to get any closer..." mentality. The flickering establishes that she isn't real, just a figment of his imagination; a visual manifestation of his dependency on whatever it is. I think it explains the suicide attempt after "getting closer", as well.

Wow, I just went through again to get what I assumed was the final ending (making her leave), and this seems to be such an obvious corollary as to be almost ham-handed. Just my opinion, though.

Spoiler Tannhauser'd!

No, really, don't read the spoiler until you've played the game.

Spoiler:
I mean that I am of the firm belief that she is literally not a person. She is a metaphor for his addiction to something self-destructive—possibly drug-addiction, possibly cutting himself, I'm not sure which. A co-dependent relationship could cover that, except...

Consider the scenes in which she "flickers"—these scenes suggest that she's not real.

Consider that when he tries to make the relationship "closer", he ends up in the hospital. This is not the usual kind of outcome one would expect from getting "closer" to a girlfriend—even if the relationship is co-dependent. Overdosing on drugs or cutting deeper, however?

Consider that when he breaks up with her, his life gets better, but it takes a long time.

It is possible to interpret the story as actually being about a relationship with a person—but the evidence that suggests it's really about an addiction is, in my opinion, overwhelming.

Indeed.

Minarchist wrote:
What Hypatian said.

Hypatian wrote:
What Minarchist said.

That's about the conclusion I had reached, as well.

Cool game, by the way, Pyroman. When I saw the new "fringe busters" this morning I was just thinking how I wished you showcased more IF here—although this certainly isn't, it's kinda sorta close.

In other news, "kinda" and "sorta" are not shown as errors in the spellchecker. That's...disturbing.

I agree with Minarchist's interpretation, even the point about the game being a bit ham-fisted about it. I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of this one (I had played it before), as I never really bought into the relationship or the characters. The interpretations above make it pretty clear why.

I dunno, I feel like so much more interesting stuff has been done with the "interpersonal relationship" indie game.

Facade
was far more daring, if much harder to get the results you wanted.
Digital: A Love Story had a lot more charm and felt like more of a game.
At this point, I expect more than just a choose your own adventure with a not-so-subtle metaphor, and that's kind of what I felt this game was.

Hmm, I completely read that end part differently, but your explanation makes alot of sense as well

Spoiler:
I read the "hospital ending" as him staying with her, getting depressed, then trying to kill himself. I guess it's very similar to the cutting.

I have to say I don't keep up with IF very much. Any good IF review/news sites? I'll add them to the ol' Reader.

This game was absolutely bizarre to me.

My first play through felt incredibly reminiscent of feelings I've had in a relationship past. I forced myself to answer as I most likely would, and it just kept progressing further along the path my relationships took. It was surreal and a little depressing. It affected me way more than I would have thought possible. Weird.

Nathaniel wrote:
Ahem.

If you do the all the right things, play by all the right rules and do what's expected of you, everything will turn out alright in the end.

Nethack.

That is all.

If you go back far enough, there are plenty of counter examples: eventually the ghosts will eat Pac-Man, or the Space Invaders will wipe you out, or whatever. It might be an interesting discussion to talk about the cultural shift from video games that went on (theoretically) forever to games that had an ending; I think it just corresponds to the shift from the arcade to the home console, though.

I suppose there are also a few counter-examples of modern story-based games with unhappy endings, too. (I won't list examples for spoiler reasons, we can all think of a few.) It's definitely the exception rather than the rule, though.

beeporama wrote:

If you go back far enough, there are plenty of counter examples: eventually the ghosts will eat Pac-Man, or the Space Invaders will wipe you out, or whatever. It might be an interesting discussion to talk about the cultural shift from video games that went on (theoretically) forever to games that had an ending; I think it just corresponds to the shift from the arcade to the home console, though.

The difference is: in Nethack (and other roguelike variants) you can die instantly through no fault of your own, in about 100 different grisly ways. Pac-Man and other early arcade games are always beatable given enough skill and practice.. but random instakills are the domain of the Dungeons of Doom.

C) Put it in.

Maybe I'm just dense, but I didn't understand the ham-fisted metaphor until it was thoroughly explained to me by a few of you guys. Knowing Japanese culture, there could have been countless explanations for the... visual error that presented itself.

Pretty cool game, nevertheless.