Leaving Lyndow initially sets a worrying proposal. An exploration game (read: walking simulator), and a run time of less than an hour. There’s plenty of pretentious, uninteresting (and frankly boring) games out there that go by similar descriptions (lest we not forget the backlash against Dear Esther), so you would be forgiven for assuming this is another, and ignoring it. However, in some ways you’d be mistaken for that assumption. There’s more to Leaving Lyndow than you may initially think, and while it is still a ‘play at your own pace exploration game’ that lasts less than an hour, it does what it does pretty well.

 

The premise of the game is, simply, you are preparing to leave your home to go on an ocean expedition, you must pack your things, say your goodbyes and then leave. Of course, that’s a reductive description, and actually you will spend your time exploring this character’s home, discovering memories, and meeting the people she has spent her life with. It’s less about completing a check list and getting to your ‘objective’, and more about what it’s like for this person to leave the place they’ve grown up in.

 

Unlike some similar titles, in Leaving Lyndow there is some tangible gameplay, even if it is minimalist. Perhaps more accurately described as short mini-games/objectives, you will find a few tasks to complete. Finding items to pack for your trip, for example, or finding a boy’s toys spread across a garden. They are little interactions, but it makes the title feel like more of an actual game. The characters you meet throughout also have bits of dialogue, and some you can engage in conversation. Choosing how you respond to their questions, and generally hearing the positive and negative thoughts of the locals about your trip (not everyone is happy that you are going away) gives some good context and helps immerse you in this decision our character has made.

 

Lyndow-Construction

 

But for the most part, walking around the environments and taking in the details is what you’ll be doing. It’s a good thing then that Leaving Lyndow is quite pleasing to the eye, as well as filled with some interesting details. You’ll probably notice as soon as you meet the first character, that this is more of a fantasy world and we aren’t quite human. The culture of this place is briefly nodded to in notes that you find, and there are some interesting objects and vegetation to come across. It’s nice that a small backstory has been written for context as it makes exploring much more interesting.

 

It also helps that the world isn’t empty. There are a fair number of interesting objects to look at, and for a few you can inspect them more closely. After all, the essence of the game is in taking in the world and its characters, so having things to actually look at and immerse yourself in the world is important.

 

On a similar note, the game also features a small number of mini games/fun interactables. Using a strange instrument in the woods to make music, for example, or trying to beat a score in a child’s ball game. It makes the world feel livelier, and gives you something genuine to try your hand at. As an honourable mention, drinking ‘tea’ at the local watering hole was quite funny – this ‘tea’ has some suspicious effects on you, and if you push your luck the bartender starts to question how much you’re drinking.

 

Tevfik

 

I did enjoy my short time with Leaving Lyndow, and I think the game strikes some good notes with a genre/concept that is regularly dull or pretentious, however it still bears the hallmarks that many will not appreciate. As I’ve already said, this is a very short game. And there’s no getting around this fact, despite what I’ve already said about the game having some enjoyable and interesting content, if your game is that short, there’s clearly not a lot to do in it. Some might argue that for a minimalist title that prioritises a story or exploration, this can suit that design, but I can’t quite agree with that – in this case, more would have been better. After all, what makes the game interesting is the world and its inhabitants, so if the player had more time and more things to do then it would only have improved immersion (just look at Gone Home and how much that game had to offer). It’s good that the game includes some mini games and interactive objects and conversations, but this is also lacking a bit. You can only talk to a few people, the dialogue is sparse, and the mini games are highly simplistic and few.

 

Visually speaking, the game is quite beautiful – it’s very bright and colourful, the vegetation around the world is lush, and the designs of buildings are rustic and interesting – however, there are some minor black marks. Motion blur and bloom made the game uncomfortable for me, and there’s no option to change that. All the characters have a rather suspiciously familiar look. All bald, all with their faces and bodies mostly covered. I don’t like to assume, but I wonder if this had something to do with not having to create unique character models. It’s a contrast to how good the rest of the game looks.

 

Farmhouse

 

However, the one thing that makes all those criticisms seem minor to me is the price. It’s difficult to get really pent up about a lack of content and some minor visual faults when your game costs less than three pounds, and as I’ve already said, for what it is (the genre of game, and it’s brevity) it’s not too bad at all.

 

I suppose ultimately it relies on whether you actually like minimalist exploration type games (walking simulator, though that term does make me roll my eyes). If no, then why have you even read this far? If yes, I think you may find some brief enjoyment in Leaving Lyndow. It is very short, and it’s hard to get past that, but it hasn’t made the same crucial error that a lot of other titles of this ilk have in the past in being simply boring. There’s at least something to do in this world, things to look at and a brief backstory to uncover, and the story is sweet and probably mildly relatable to most (leaving home is essentially the concept – not that most of us leave to go on ocean expeditions, but you get the point). Either way, the price point is accessible if you are curious, and I doubt you’ll be too disappointed with it, if at all.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1, and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games - Silent Hill 2 and Shogun 2 being a couple of my all time favourites. I became adamant that I wanted to be a video game critic after discovering YouTuber TotalBiscuit, and subsequently took on (and completed) a Journalism course, hoping to one day play and talk about video games for a living...or, you know, just as a hobby.