by Jed Pressgrove
Developed by Lucie Viatgé, Tom Victor, and Titouan Millet, Naut seems bold. The soundtrack demands the most attention, evoking the hypnotic Phillip Glass and hinting at the transcendence of Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra” that fulfilled the vision of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The mixture of warm and cool colors complements this sense of mesmerization, as does the quick onset of ubiquitous lightning and night. This style fits Naut’s invitation to explore, and not just on foot — a car awaits next to the starting point. The automobile also signals the frustrating repetition of poor functionality. Steering the car is a nightmare. Ideally, this shouldn’t matter in the open setting of a Mars desert, but small rocks and other surprisingly sturdy obstacles cannot be seen until you get close to them. Naut attempts to sidestep this problem with whimsy. You can drive the car even when it’s upside down, or you can exit the vehicle to flip it over with the press of a button, which often makes the car perform high-flying stunts. These humorous concessions soon become a monotonous game activity. Running across the environment is more attractive than fumbling around in the vehicle, though the relative slowness of the former breeds impatience as the gradually appearing sights remind me of Jake Clover’s Tandoor, an unsubstantial game that was at least nonirritating with its fleeting appeal.