35MM is a game that wants you to believe it. Lone developer Sergey Noskov shows you a world which we could very well be heading towards. And he wants you to know that once we get there, there is no going back. Life as we know it would be irreparably changed. All that will be left to do is live in fear, or starve to death.
It’s a grim setting for an even grimmer story. Nothing in 35MM ever seems to go right. Within minutes of beginning you’re fairly directionless, simply moving from one location to the next because, well, why not? But as you do so you and your only ally are attacked by a bear. Your survival results in you spending the night on a hard, cold floor, before you head out to find water.
It would be hard to say your companion is ever in good spirits, but he definitely tries to be enthusiastic about your journey. Despite the language barrier (the game only supports English subtitles) you can tell by his tone of voice that he’s trying to encourage you, yet has his own anxiety about the challenges you’re about to face. Still, onward you venture.
And this in itself is an exemplary explanation of exactly how the game pans out. You are continuing forward, through rain and hunger and occasional encounters with friend or foe, because that’s what you have to do. 35MM makes no promises beyond this. It never suggests that it will offer anything more than what is right in front of you – only that how you contend with the here-and-now may well change the outcome of game.
Beyond this, 35MM offers little to contend with. While it suggests that survival is all important, there are no hunger or thirst meters here. And this isn’t Metro 2033; you’re not going to be fighting mutants and finding hidden underground military bases. 35MM is a game to play for it’s journey. It’s a game that will exasperate as much as it entertains, simply due to the nature of its progression. You must stay the course here, just as you would if it were your reality.
The game design is an odd mix of meticulously planned and the poorly thought-out. Despite rarely giving the player an obvious objective, 35MM does a good job of inspiring the player into progressing rather than handholding. Yet at the same time, weird design decisions can hamper progress. For example, interactive objects are highlighted white – which is entirely bleached out when using your torch.
Much like The Dead Tree of Ranchuina, 35MM uses video games as the medium of choice to express an inner voice. The thoughts or feelings of its developer presented as an interactive work instead of a painting, novel or song. It’s a game that contests that the medium has grown, and the debate ‘are video games art?’ is actually no longer up for question. To that end, any gamer invested in the medium should at least be curious as to what Noskov has in store. However, if you’re simply here for testing your reflexes in Elden Ring or becoming a hero in Horizon Forbidden West – for which, there is no shame – then 35MM will most definitely be too passive and experience to truly grasp the complexities of.