One of the perks of being an indie developer is the freedom to choose topics that would likely be binned by more mainstream game studios and publishers. This autonomy can lead to some interesting themes and experimental gameplay that many gamers find appealing. Indie studio Serenity Forge focuses on creating narrative-driven and meaningful games that are intended to expand players' horizons. The developer has chosen to follow the unconventional route with Land of Screens, a point-and-click story-driven game that endeavors to remind people that it’s beneficial to put down their devices and notice the world around them.

Land of Screens follows protagonist Holland as she tries to deal with the sudden end of a five-year relationship. Thanks to a series of random circumstances, Holland constantly finds herself unable to use her phone to check social media and ends up disconnected from the online world for several days. Not reading people's comments about her recent breakup turns out to be a blessing in disguise because, without constant feedback from her friends and semi-friends, Holland manages to think about other things and enjoy her life in the moment. It is a bit unreal, as Holland accepts being unplugged much more easily than most people ever would these days.

land of screens breakup holland

The art style of Land of Screens is inarguably the game's greatest strength, but it may be the only strong point. The game is rendered in an attractive vector style with a semi-muted color palette, and much of the imagery is pleasant to look at. But, frankly, that’s about it. The music is forgettable, the story is forgettable, and so is the protagonist. This is not a game that will remain in people’s memories for long.

The characters in Land of Screens also earn a slight nod. While none of the people that Holland encounters are particularly noteworthy, they stand out in a game that desperately needs something for player interest to latch onto. All of the characters are stereotypes, unfortunately. There’s the uncle embedded in the couch watching sports, the selfie junkie, the enthusiastic fan of a niche TV show, the passionate rock band devotee, the social butterfly in need of a party, and no fewer than three apathetic adolescents. Although Serenity Forge has done an admirable job of creating a cast of characters with distinct personalities, they are quite cookie cutter at the end of the day.

land of screens concert

Land of Screens has an important message that most people are already aware of. It’s a good idea to disconnect sometimes, put down the devices and social media, and spend quality time with real people. Throughout the game, Holland visits a high school buddy with whom she had lost touch, makes a few new friends, mingles at a concert, visits with family, and goes on a pleasant hike in the woods. Seeing Holland’s unexpected “adventures” and the positive effect it has on her outlook may be inspiring, but it’s doubtful that it will ultimately lead anyone to actually disconnect for a while. And it can’t be ignored that Serenity Forge attempts to relay its message via a game that requires people to be on their PC or Switch for several hours.

Ironically, Land of Screens will struggle to keep many people’s attention. While the message is a good one, it’s unfortunately not a very exciting one. Although Land of Screens is categorized as a point-and-click adventure game, it doesn’t quite fit that moniker. Rather, it’s a lot of dialogue reading, minimal moving from person to person to initiate said dialogue, and then more dialogue reading. This wouldn’t be so bad if the conversations were interesting, but almost none of them are. Players are instead prodded into mundane interactions that wouldn't be very enjoyable in real life, let alone in a game meant for entertainment.

land of screens cody holland social media

There is a tiny amount of what can loosely be called gameplay in Land of Screens. The game is divided into five chapters, and Holland’s goal in each chapter is to get everybody to put down their devices and socialize face to face. With some people, this takes a tiny amount of thought. For example, in one chapter, Holland needs to convince her friends to play volleyball. To get Julia to participate, the player must notice the pooch in the backyard, learn through dialogue that Holland’s new acquaintance is a dog lover, and then tell her that there’s a dog outside to meet. That really is about as complicated as it gets. And every player will have the exact same experience. There is only one set path to complete each chapter, and none of them require much brainpower.

Luckily, Land of Screens doesn’t overstay its welcome. Serenity Forge has correctly gauged just how long it can keep most people playing and then pulls the plug. The game can be completed in a couple of hours, which will be the threshold of many people’s tolerance. And right when players begin to grow restless and are concluding that they want to do something else, the game ends.

Ultimately, Land of Screens may serve as a helpful reminder for a few players, but most people already know that it’s important to look up from their devices sometimes. As a non-developer, it’s difficult to see how Serenity Forge could have relayed its message in a more engaging manner, but there are developers who have successfully sneaked a societal call to action into their games. This is usually accomplished by focusing on gameplay first and sprinkling the message throughout for people to uncover themselves. Instead, Serenity Forge has made the entirety of Land of Screens about the message and only marginally concentrated on anything else. This has resulted in a flat experience that lacks the ability to inspire.

Land of Screens is available on PC and Switch. Game Rant was provided a Steam code for this review.

MORE: 13 Video Games That Will Help You Relax

Our Rating:

1.5 out of 5 (Poor, A Few Good Parts)
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