“Death rides on every passing breeze” and lurks in every box

Vanitas, by Tale of Tales, presents a very different interpretation of a cabinet of wonders than My Body — a Wunderkammer. Vanitas creates a virtual cabinet of wonders, actual boxes full of an ever-changing sequence of three objects. The outside of the box changes and contains the only lines of text in the game, lines from famous poems and the Bible like:

Vanitas has twelve stages, each one including a new object. These objects include feathers, a coin, a cherry — there are at least twenty different objects. The game seems aimless at first, you just throw objects around and then load three more, but then there start to be living creatures. There are lady bugs, snails, and a fish out of water. The fish comes toward the end where the idea of death is becoming more and more prevalent. You get to watch the fish desperately flail around until you close the box, while listening to the sounds of it hitting the sides of the box. That’s the point where the game takes on significance. In the later stages, objects are broken- the stick with the flowers sheds all its petals, the lady bug stops moving, the glass vial is broken in half. There are bones now and the music is more noticeable, haunting cello. Vanitas becomes less of an idle time-killer, and more of a visual interpretation of Memento mori.

The simplicity makes it easy to appreciate and allows for more interpretation. There is no narrative, just a progression. And, unlike My Body — a Wunderkammer, you are never permitted to see the full picture.

I played the web version of Vanitas, which is free, but there is also an android and iphone app. It’s simple, but enjoyable and very beautifully done — it uses Unity 3D. It’s worth checking out.

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