Cuccchi is a game where you explore beautiful dioramas and go through dangerous and trippy labyrinths, in a journey inside the paintings of Enzo Cucchi.
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Utterly mesmerising! I am so hungry for the further exploration of games as vehicles for concept albums, and this doesn't let up for even a moment. Intensely reverent of an artist I'd otherwise never heard of; Enzo Cucchi (pronounced "cookie"). His artwork is wonderfully realised, riding the wave of expressionism and shaking its own visual conventions with surprising regularity. Something about the low-resolution rendering direction somehow lends every scene from every angle a genuinely painterly feel. The music is astounding too, remarkably reactive.
So naturally, the catch is that it has a certain lack of confidence in itself. One of the central mechanical pillars of the game is the task of finding collectables and avoiding skulls in Windows 95 maze screensaver-esque sequences. No reason for these to be here at all, I'll be frank, just because you're a game doesn't mean you have to carry their baggage. The heart and soul of the Cuccchi is the exploration of sight and sound, that's all it needed.
Adapting art, aside from narrative, across different mediums looks impossible due to how difficult it is to translate form. On the other hand, dreams fit well with videogames, both with logic as a supplement in any way imaginable. So how is it to adapt the paintings of a dreamy author? Does it have any value to do that?
The biggest merit of the game is giving a new perspective on an artist and his work. Googling Enzo Cucchi works gives a confusing image. Various paintings randomly ordered appear without much guidance, and it’s a bit hard to dig beyond the surface. But the selective work of Cuccchi gives a deeper interpretation of those works.
Natural and rural life predominate the sceneries and provide vitality through the color they irradiate. Curiously, in contraposition, mechanical appearings seem the antithesis to this. In the most obvious example, the village that is visited some times in the first minutes loses its color at the moment that trains, boats and tanks begin to appear. After that, there is a pattern where everytime we encounter some of this mechanical presence the world will be weirdly monochrome, the colors that before inspired life now suggest death.
With the way the works are presented the fear of a world dying is obvious, and because of that the last level is surprising yet still coherent. After all that we see, we encounter ourselves in a map where plants are uncolored and there is a red swamp with fish dying, following the thematic line. But this last map has the colors surrounding everything like in a fog, less attached from the physical world. The only places where color returns to nature is where humans are present, people wearing straw hats reminiscent of the rural people, just being there. An encapsulated paradise in a way, but a paradise that is dying, a paradise where every person is trapped under a web right above them.
I still think that Julián Palacios should trust more in his own games. The already dreamy power aesthetic of the Windows maze wallpaper is a good canvas to paint Cucchi’s work into. You don’t need eyes to collect or skulls to avoid. But given that this is a minor complaint in a game that can convey such an understanding of a surrealist painter, I can give it a pass.
Gioco italiano partorito da Fantastico Studio e da Julián Palacios Gechtman (membro del collettivo milanese Eremo e autore di Promesa, uscito giusto l'anno scorso). Ne risulta un mix tra l'esplorazione e il maze-game in ambienti realizzati sulla base delle opere di Enzo Cucchi. Scopo del giocatore è quello di trovare i dipinti di Cucchi (51 in tutto), operazione che permette di sbloccare le tele nella libreria del Menù d'avvio. Ritengo poco azzeccata la scelta di rendere meno libera l'esplorazione attraverso il collocamento di teschi (a loro volta ispirati a quelli realizzati da Cucchi stesso) che inseguono il giocatore all'interno dei livelli con labirinti: entrare in contatto con uno di essi porta alla perdita di uno dei dipinti che sono stati raccolti in quel livello, costringendo il giocatore che voglia ottenerli tutti a ripeterlo (e l'esperienza di gioco non rende interessante il rigiocare i vari livelli). Diversi degli elementi nei vari livelli sono animati in modo tale da restituire una certa vivacità alla scena, senza eccessi.