Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure
Added to the lair: 3/24/19
Note: Includes Gadget: IT&A and PAF + Four-Sight
Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure / 1st person
Developer: Synergy, Inc
Year: 1994 / 1997
Platform: Windows 3.1 / Windows 95
Emulator: DOSBox Daum / PCem
Wikipedia: Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure
A locomotive speeds through a retro-future world
Gadget is hard to describe. Surreal and unsettling would be a good place to start. A weird curio from a bygone era? Yep. An avant-garde art piece? Yeah, probably that too. I'm hesitant to call it a good game, because it's barely a game at all, but I'll certainly say this... it's interesting.
Gadget is an uncomfortable experience, for better and worse. I'm not at all shocked that Cryo wanted to publish the remake (Gadget: Past as Future) because it exhibits the same off-kilter (off-putting, even) and alienating quality present in a number of their games - the type of thing that makes you question "Was this actually made by humans?"
I couldn't really tell you what the game is about. I could tell you what happens but that wouldn't really elucidate an answer to the more fundamental question - what does it actually mean? It elicits numerous questions and offers very few answers; and ends more bafflingly than it begins.
The game is extremely linear, mostly shuffling you around from location to location with a few things in any given environment to interact with and, once you do, you'll be shuffled off to the next area. This has the effect, intended or not, of making you feel rather uncomfortable as you're given virtually no control over anything. Practically every game amounts to simply doing what the developers intended, but it's rarely as on the nose as it is here, to the point that it feels less like exerting your own will and intellect to reach a desired conclusion that was planned by the developers and more like doing what they want, regardless of what you want. The distinction is arguably superficial but, in this case, it's palpable just the same.
Graphically the game is a strange mishmash of steampunk, art deco, and some kind of unidentified Eastern Bloc country aesthetic. Things frequently take a turn for the surreal, and you often travel from one location to the next in something approximating an out of body experience - you'll be looking at a monitor of something and then suddenly move through the monitor into that location, for example.
Adding to the surreal and unsettling quality is a fantastic, otherworldly soundtrack by Koji Ueno. It sometimes reminded me of the work of Akira Yamaoka, with things frequently turning into walls of abstract industrial noise. If the bizarre visuals and storytelling aren't enough to make you uneasy, the music ought to do the trick.
Interestingly, director Guillermo Del Toro has cited Gadget as one of his favorite games, and said that it was influential in films such as The Matrix and Dark City; I can definitely see some similarities in the latter.
Included here is both the original version of the game, Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure, and the 1997 remake, Gadget: Past as Future. I prefer the remake between the two. The visuals are still decidedly weird, but cleaned up a great deal from the original. I'm actually kindof amazed that a game this weird was remade, and had a lot of additional supplemental material surrounding it too, including an animated film, a novel, art books, etc. several of which are included in this package.
At the end of it all I honestly don't know what to make of Gadget. It's such a singularly bizarre experience that I think it's worth a look, even if (or maybe because) it does little to ingratiate itself to the player - it has a vision; a strange, unsettling, dreamlike, probably acid-induced vision, but a vision nevertheless, and you're just along for the ride, whether you like it or not. I respect and appreciate that, even if it leaves me scratching my head.
It occurs to me that this is precisely the kind of game that led me to create this site in the first place - the sort of obscure, thoroughly flawed but unique oddity that could so easily slip into the void without a word... it'd be a shame if this sort of thing was lost to time.
Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure