Free To Play Array, Part 04 – Missing Translation

This article is part of a series. The first part can be found here : Free To Play Array, Part 01 – AdVenture Capitalist

Over the holidays, Steam ran a promotion where you would earn trading cards for using the Discovery Queue; a tool which looks at the games in your library and wishlist to offer you similar games you may enjoy.
During my journeys into the unknown, I found several games which took my interest, a handful which were free-to-play. The first of these is today’s title: Missing Translation.
Missing Translation is an indie adventure/puzzle game which was released June 2015, by AlPixel. It was originally released for Android and migrated to Steam after positive reception and numerous awards and nominations.

MT01 - Title 01

The game sees you taking a late-night walk through the city to help you sleep, before discovering a mysterious new land. You don’t understand the language or why the people keep staring at you; and so your adventure begins.

Immediately, Missing Translation took my mind straight back to Fez; mainly the latter stages of the game where you find the need to learn a new language to discover more of the world. This game requires you to learn everything beyond the simple controls, [Q,W,E,A,S,D] which it kindly tells you.
You see some symbols on a machine disappear and appear above doors in the world, giving the impression of places you need to go. What follows is the start of my journey into the world of Missing Translation.

MT03 - Machine 01
The mysterious machine…

I travelled to the first room and was faced with a puzzle: Four buttons linked to four panels. Press the buttons to complete the image, working left to right and you win!
This was a simple matter of trial and error resulting with a light turning on in the room with the big machine thing.

MT03 - Puzzle 01
The first puzzle; not particularly challenging.

I headed outside and took in the scenery. It was very quaint, featuring aspects of industrialisation without ravaging the landscape like so many industries do. I wandered left and right several times before I realised there was a bridge I could walk along. I felt a bit silly to say the least…

MT04 - Scenery 01
I still don’t think that solid black bar is an obvious bridge… ^^”

Travelling down the ladder, I found more buildings taking the form of a street. Felines adorned the rooftops and a lady seemed to be wandering the street, stopping and staring as I passed. I found one of the mysterious symbols above a door and entered the room. A puzzle awaited me.
Through trial and error, I completed the first stage of the puzzle and established that I had to remove all the squares in a single, continuous path. Upon completion a counter ticked up towards 25. After successfully completing them all, a light illuminated on the strange machine and I went on my way.

MT05 - Puzzle 02
The second puzzle. More challenging, but still quite simple.

Journeying further, I found a building I could enter. Moving through the rooms, I came across what appeared to be a classroom. One room seemed to have the symbols for numbers, while the second room featured a computerised teacher?
I jotted down the symbols and their matching values, from what I deduced, in a notebook, knowing they would be relevant later.
The room with the teacher seemed to have a vague microphone at one end with a symbol on the wall. I access the “chat window” and drew the symbol in. My character spoke it and the teacher responded with an ambiguous image. I think it is a piano or, maybe, a student’s desk? I found that saying numbers into the microphone was met with a large X on the teacher/monitor, so I left and continued walking down the street.

MT06 - Classroom 01
The first classroom. Simple mathematics to solve on the chalkboard.

I found the second building with another mysterious symbol above the door and was met with another puzzle room. This one involved moving a cube through set spaces to a white space. As the puzzles progressed, I found myself moving numerous cubes with a single move and having to co-ordinate them to succeed. Again, once the 25 puzzles were complete, a light appeared on the strange machine.

MT07 - Puzzle 03
The third puzzle offered some interesting challenges, particularly in the latter stages.

The next building I encountered seemed to be a bar. the bartender stared me down as I wandered along the room and read the symbol on the wall. The bartender replied, but I had no idea of what she was saying, so I left.

MT08 - Bartender 01
I’m sure this room holds more secrets than I discovered…

The last place I visited was the fourth puzzle room. It took me a while to figure out what the requirement was.
You are presented with some cogs with one of two different surfaces. I eventually deduced that I needed to match ends of the cogs so they were paired. This became trickier with nine, or more, different cogs to align. As with the previous rooms, there were 25 puzzles and I decided to stop and come back to it later.

MT09 - Puzzle 04

As you can see, the game is fairly low-octane, unless cats really excite you. [I tried to engage the kitties, to no avail.] The pace is very methodical and is really a journey of discovery. It lets you move at your own pace and doesn’t mind waiting for you to get to the next point of interest.

In the short amount of time I experienced above, the game had already got into my mind. There is something very unsettling about these strangers speaking an unknown language and staring you down as you move by. They appear the same as you, but they clearly are not. Or are they?
On the other hand, the soundtrack to Missing Translation is so sweet and charming, it keeps everything feeling welcoming and homely. The contrast is odd, yet pleasant. It removes the harshness which would usually accompany the sense of alienation, which looms over this, strange world.
I also felt the greyscale visuals lent themselves to the sense of loss and isolation. Everything loses a sense of distinction and it is easy to mistake locations in your mind. Fortunately, the places of relevance are either marked, or carry a notable style, such as the bar.
The game has a very nice overall tone and conveys its feeling well. That being said, my main critique is the length of the puzzle rooms. 25 puzzles is fine at first, until you realise that each room wants you to complete 25 versions of their selected puzzle and then move onto the next one. Each puzzle escalates nicely and then continues to outstay its welcome at the peak of its difficulty. It is a small critique, but one that grated on me over time.

I went away… And then I completed the game…
[Mild spoilers ahead.]

MT10 - Scenery 02
Miss, are those your cats, up there?

As it turns out, I completed the third puzzle and, upon returning to the machine room, completed the game. I stared at the screen and quit back to Steam. I checked my achievements and found I had 0/6, so figured I had missed something. Obviously I had, since I hadn’t learnt any of the language, completed the doctor’s riddle or felt I had achieved a complete experience, so I returned to the world of Missing Translation…
I wandered around and took note of every symbol I could find and started talking to the people of the town. If they replied with new symbols, I jotted those down and tried replying with them. Based on the frequency of the symbols, I deduced some of their meaning and started to building a translation booklet.
Then I remembered the room with the computer/teacher. I tried the symbols there and got some more answers. I pieced together meanings for all the symbols I could find and tried to establish context for all the characters. After accomplishing all of this and ending up no better off, I called it there; still no achievements, though a bit more enthused.

MT11 - Sheriff 01
Howdy, Sheriff Cactus Head?

I decided to consult the Steam forums and see what was going on. It would appear that the Mac version of the game has some issues. Achievements don’t work on the Mac release, for Steam, and neither does the full-screen function; an issue I was building up to and is evidenced by the pictures provided.
My version didn’t fullscreen. I assumed it was to do with being a mobile port, as it looks to be the size of a mobile phone screen. It didn’t impact the game too much, but I was trying to look closely to find potentially hidden symbols and this did make it a little harder.

MT12 - Drawing 01
This is the dialogue interface. You draw your symbols between the points and click the “tick.”

Overall, the game intrigued me but didn’t win me over.
It offers a broad concept with limited application, as far as I can tell. The dialogue is fun and interesting to learn, but doesn’t seem to carry any actual benefits. Not to mention, it also can take a minute or two to draw in some of the symbols. I imagine this translated better to a touch-screen interface, but I can only critique my own experiences.
The game does get bonus points for offering a male or female character to play as. The character’s gender doesn’t seem to have any impact on the game, other than the user’s preference and having the option available is always welcome.

MT13 - Ending 01

It is a nice game to look at and the soundtrack is very endearing. If the details above sound appealing, give it a look; it is free, after all. I’m sure I have missed something, but I can’t see were the missed content would be… Maybe you can find it and tell me where I went wrong. ^^

Ellen often feels like she is speaking another language; maybe she needs to give people a phrase book so they can follow her trains of thought? Regardless, she captured these easy-to-interpret images of Missing Translation, an AlPixel game, all by herself.
Last played and completed on 09/01/16, for Steam.
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