DescriptionCalifornium is a first-person adventure game that focuses on exploration with minor puzzle-solving elements. It starts in Berkeley, California in 1967 and even though the entire game takes place in a single location, it eventually moves to Mars. The protagonist is Elvin Green, a writer whose career is at a low point. At the start of the game his wife Thea has just left him, the apartment shows signs of neglect, he cannot finish his first novel and he does not even complete the filler advertisement copywriting his agent brings him. It is not explained what happens exactly, but somehow his world is falling apart and glitches appear, showing glimpses of different dimensions or alternate realities. The game has a bright art deco visual style and even though environments and objects are entirely in 3D, all characters are 2D sprites.
The game was created as a hommage to science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, initially for the 30th anniversary of the author's death. It is not stated explicitly, but the game incorporates elements of the author's life, particularly his early writing years, and subjects that were explored in his novel VALIS. Most notably the ideas of visions, here called simulacra, and the comparison between what is original and what is a representation. It also has the metaphorical theme of dehumanization in a modern age as a form of dystopia and the possibility that human destiny might be subject to external control.
The environment with locations such as the apartment, a diner, a shop and offices can be explored freely. There are also several characters to talk to. At certain locations televisions can be discovered and these show a Roman numeral. The symbol represent the number of glitches of anomalies in the current environment and all of these need to be found to keep progressing. Glitches always appear as a white symbol that needs to be clicked to activate it. At that point a different reality seeps in, altering the environment and mixing dimensions. These symbols cannot always be spotted right away. Sometimes they can only be found by standing or looking in a certain direction, by performing a specific action, or through audiovisual cues and temporary appearances. Glitches can also be tracked down often because objects that have them start shifting or act in a strange way.
The game consists of three dimensions of the same environment that can be explored one after the other. Many story elements and characters are carried over between the dimensions, but mixed in very different ways. A dimension is finished by locating all symbols and then finishing a last puzzle. Sometimes there are other interactive elements as well.
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Free French versionNext to the regular, commercial release, the French version was also released for free as four separate episodes on the site of ARTE.
Related Web Sites
- Californium (official website)
- Californium | ARTE (download the French version of the game free of charge, as four separate episodes)
- Wikipedia: Californium (article in the open encyclopedia about the game)
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