GOTY #10: Mandrake Phantasy

GOTY #10- Mandrake Phantasy. I loved pretty much everything about this little game. It was a little repetitive, but I loved the music, art, and environment of the game. It was bright and cartoony but enshrouded in mystery. It was a lovely gem to find on itch.io, but its repetition stopped it from obtaining a spot closer to the Game of the Year.

At first glance, Mandrake Phantasy is just an arcade-like game where you pluck mandrakes and give them to a blue giant lady, but it is also an in-depth look at the era we are living in, an era where we try to consume as much media that we can without any hint of success.

I watch most Youtube videos at 2x speed. I have too many Youtube videos to watch, and not enough time to watch them all. I also watch them while doing other activities such as surfing the web or playing my favorite games. I can’t stop watching Youtube videos, or playing games, or checking my favorite sites for more content to consume. The era of social media and easy to access platforms full of limitless videos has created a constant need to consume media. In 2011, it was reported that people generally consume 174 newspapers worth of information every day. This is definitely a shocking study, as well as an aged one, meaning that we most likely consume more than that today.

In Mandrake Phantasy you are given the task of saving the blue giant’s friends, which are mandrakes that are in the ground, and you must save them with Pikmin-esque plucking, and when the 60 second timer runs out, you report back to the blue giant and she says a very brief line of dialogue, and the game ends.

With large amounts of mandrakes collected, she states, “Thank you…Sleep well”, with one mandrake she states “A little company is nice”, and with zero she says, “hmmm”. None of these seem like win states, and none of them feel like fail states either. All of the endings feel completely laid-back and carefree, because none of it really matters.

The number of mandrakes that you collect does not lead to any spectacular ending to the story. No reward, or big congratulations, just a line of dialogue and then a simple question, “again?”. With Mandrake Phantasy being an arcade-like game, it has a huge reliance on its replayability, but it is also a story-based game with a very explicit goal, to collect, but no goal of when to stop collecting. It is the depiction of life in an era full of things to consume, but no consumption goal.

There is always a video to watch. Thousands of hours of videos are uploaded daily to YouTube, and when you finish a series of videos, there is always a recommended section or another series to start and finish. Social media is full of different news stories going around, different reactions to each story, as well as random comments about whether Krampus Junkrat is hot or not (he is. Don’t @ me). There is never a break, a day without hundreds of videos, content creators, or articles are being shoved in your direction, and it never feels like a success when we complete reading or watching the content provided to us. It is just normal, and we continue to seek out more content. We may thank the creators, but we are never done consuming.

This is how Mandrake Phantasy works. You keep playing because you have hope that maybe there is an ending, a success to be found through the collection of meaningless things. That said, the mandrakes are friends of the Blue Giant, so their value is the enjoyment that is brought by you plucking them, and the enjoyment they bring to the Blue Giant through friendship.

This is the worth of media, and the information we receive from social media and video platforms. They bring us insight and enjoyment and that is why we consume them. That is why we keep clicking on the next video, or why we continue to scroll through our bottomless Twitter feed. Even though there is plenty of information that we simply skim through, there is always a gem hidden somewhere that we need to find. An article that was written by a dear friend, a video where twelve jokes miss but one really hits, or a tweet about how your future is bright. We consume,  consume, and consume just so we can get the entertainment and knowledge that we need. We never win, though. We never set a goal about when to stop consuming. We just thank the creators, tweeters, and writers for the enjoyment and have a good night, and we do it again the next day.

So who is the blue giant? This is something I have been thinking about for a long time, and it is an answer that the developers, BEBADBOI, refused to give in my interview with them. , When asked about the meaning behind the game and the mystery of the blue giant, they stated, “Seeing how people interpret it is more interesting to me then coming right out and saying what I think it should mean.” So I came up with an interpretation. The blue giant is our desire to consume, and the mandrakes represent everything we watch and read every day and their creators.

Mandrakes are known for their human-like structure. That’s pretty meaningful in the context of the deeper meaning of Mandrake Phantasy. If they are representations of the content we consume, then their bodies, the lifeless human-like shapes, represent the pain and hard work that creators face. Burn-out is a feeling that most people experience in their job, turning the writers, creators, and hard workers that we love into people who cope with their mental and emotional exhaustion with the work that they create. We love consuming media, but often do not see the sadness and anger that can be created during the production of that media.

The imposter syndromes, the stressful nights, and the constant worry that maybe the content you created just wasn’t good enough. Games, videos, heck, even GOTY lists, all can cause people stress. Well, I hope you have enjoyed this, and hope that the late nights of writing this was worth it. Thank you, friends, and sleep well. There will be more to read tomorrow.

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