Iblard: Laputa no Kaeru Machi

released on Oct 16, 1997

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A game based on the fantasy world, "Iblard", of Inoue Naohisa. He has a bunch of "Natural Encyclopedias" (https://www.amazon.co.jp/%E3%82%A4%E3%83%90%E3%83%A9%E3%83%BC%E3%83%89%E5%8D%9A%E7%89%A9%E8%AA%8C-%E4%BA%95%E4%B8%8A-%E7%9B%B4%E4%B9%85/dp/4906268587) of Iblard, featuring many of his paintings from the 70s-present day, with little poetic descriptions of the things or places in the scene. I've know there's a game set in this world for a while, but never got around to playing it, and...
... sadly, some things are better in their original medium. The paintings are fun because they have a game-like spatial composition to it, their descriptions are "random" in that we see bits and pieces of Iblard (such as the cone-like Laputa, the trains, etc) , described in a way that's fun to imagine.
The game, instead, ties a bunch of these visual motifs into a game in a way that feels a little awkward. The game misunderstands how the wonder of Iblard works in its original medium, instead creating this 'assorted bag' of what amount to references to Iblard. The story involves a boy sucked into a picture book of Iblard, he's apparently trapped there but can do something regarding creating a "Laputa" (the flying saucer thing in the cover) to escape. As he goes along he meets some characters that pop up in the Iblard manga.
It's indeed cool, in theory, to explore and see places that the Iblard paintings and manga feature, but at some point in between the simple Myst-like puzzles and clunky 1st-person movement, the game feels like an awkward disservice to Inoue's paintings. Occasionally you literally see a painting from one of his art books, with a description that is sometimes the same as the artbooks themselves, offering info about the world. That's a neat approach, I guess, not much different from the way item lore functions in Dark Souls.
The spaces in the game are boring to walk around, occasionally you can tilt your camera or see over a small vista to get a nice sense of place, but honestly compared to the paintings I don't think this game does much visually... perhaps some games are better unplayed...
In some ways I wish this game waited a few years to be made. While I'm hesitant to say 'more graphics = better!' I think a few more years of better 3D controls and visual practices could have really helped out here. Of course, granted that they get rid of the terrible game design... enjoying Iblard's paintings is very much about vibing with and imagining yourself there, so in that sense I think a game similar to My Summer Vacation (Boku no Natsuyasumi), Attack of the Friday Monsters could work really well with the setting, depending on how willing the painter would be with letting a team write their own stories into the world.
Lastly, while I wasn't personally a fan of the music, it did resemble some of the Japanese ambient/new age/environmental music that is being uploaded to YouTube a lot nowadays, so it's worth checking out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zuiq93gh0lk