Saturday Spotlight: In a Permanent Save State

Most of the press around mobile gaming title In a Permanent Save State has concerned its removal from the App Store; a minor controversy in line with the removal of other titles like Sweatshop HD and Phone Story. I’ve struggled to find an actual review of the game anywhere, with most articles that mention the game focusing on either the App Store removal or that it’s about the Foxconn suicides of 2010.

So yes: In a Permanent Save State sits squarely within the category of what some call ‘serious games’ (I’d prefer ‘politically engaged’ games or another term; is Crusader Kings 2 not “serious”? Is Gran Turismo not “serious”?). Its conceit is to tell the story of seven Foxconn workers through a series of vignettes, presenting each story through frankly gorgeous art that draws on a variety of sources for its iconography and symbolism.

Visually the game is stunning; each hand-drawn backdrop and character is a well-crafted artefact loaded with emotion and meaning, all tying in to the story of each character. Their tale is introduced at the outset of each level, contextualising what you subsequently play through. The sound design is similarly lush, sparse but rich through use of simple and effective audio.

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Unfortunately In a Permanent Save State falls apart when it comes to the game.

Is this why it’s not been reviewed? Does no one want to criticise the muddy objectives, clumsy touchscreen interaction, tedious repetition and general lack of clarity about what the player is supposed to do? Am I alone in finding it frustrating that a game which draws on the videogame concept of a save state in the very title entirely lacks any sort of method of saving progress? Is it just me and my Galaxy S2 which find this game a tremendous battery drain (even once suspended) and prone to crashing? What about the poor standard of English throughout, replete with misspellings, missing words and poor grammar?

Little wonder I’ve only seen four of the seven vignettes on offer.

Progressing through In a Permanent Save State is a frustrating and lacklustre experience. The simple fact that the game chooses as its subject matter a tragic story that is ineluctably bound to our thirst for electronic consumer goods at a low cost, to our tacit acceptance that the obligation to deliver profit margins means squeezing the most vulnerable at the very bottom of the chain of supply, means nothing if the game buries its message beneath shoddy gameplay, technical problems and clumsy writing.

A shame. A lesser shame than the corporate response to the suicides themselves – Foxconn installed nets below factory windows and Apple distanced themselves – but nonetheless a shame.

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