Art Meets Zombies: I Saw Her Standing There

i saw her standing there

Classifying games is a hard task, the variations are just too many and generalizing tends to leave some things out of context. And so by calling this little number a meta-game or a pseudo-game, it really begs to be explained further. I Saw Her Standing There is a platforming game with a zombie theme that uses minimalism and truncated narratives to deliver a tasteful story that would make plenty of casual gaming zombie fans smile. Well, after mouthful of a sentence, it actually feels ironic that we want to explin things more in detail.

Art-games, narratives, psuedo, faux, name it what you want, but game like these exist and they certainly cater to specific crowds. Not that the game is hard to appreciate: the simple gameplay concept and solid controls make it quite accessible to a wide range of players. The real question is will people be be sated with well written narrative in exchange of highly detailed visuals?

The Toss Up of Story and Form

That last sentence is –admittedly, a little misleading. In no way does the developers of the I Saw Her Standing There imply that they ‘sacrificed’ visuals for the sake of stoy. In fact, if you play the game, you will see that the simplified graphics actually complement the story quite well. So what is less and what is more? It can be argued that the game has only a few stages, a lack of variety in terms of puzzles and is ultimately a little too short lived – but that is explained in the flow of the narrative –adding more stages and challenges would have betrayed the story, and forced the creators to add in more things to read that would not really contribute to the overall storyline.

So in the end, we are left with a flash title that provides players with a distinct narrative from the protagonist that is accented with a quick puzzle stage to play before the rest of the story plays out –nothing we have not seen before (Company of Me, I of It, and several other flash fames follow a similar format), but certainly something new in the zombie genre.

What the Game is About

As you may have guessed from the title, I Saw Her Standing There is a boy-meets-girl kind of love story, with the one little twist of the girl being an undead zombie. So what is a guy to do? The game narrates to players how he goes about with his relationship with the zombie. And most of the time, it is about keeping her trapped in a steel cage so that they can keep each other company while eliminating the danger of being bitten.

You go about stages getting the female zombie to chase you around as you lure her into a cage. The gameplay, and narrative evolves as other zombies and a gun are brought into the picture –completing the overall gameplay concept; you get yourself chased down by other zombies, lure them to dead ends or just shoot them and all the while, still try to get your gal into her cage. It is a simple enough concept, but at least some of the stages provide enough of a challenges to get some hardcore players interested.

Also, it has to be said that the narratives are very well written. Most of the lines feel like they were lifted right out of a very modernist fairytale, with a slight bit of fourth-wall referencing to accent the humor. Despite the delivery, there is also an unmistakable tinge of depth in the lines. This adds a feeling of refinement and polish to the game, which was ultimately why we just had to cover it.

The controls are easy to use and responsive: you use the keyboard to move the lead character around. You can run, jump and even shoot a small pistol to take care of random zombies and keep you alive. If you move within a certain range, zombies will try to chase after you blindy –you can use this to your advantage in order to send them off ledges or trap them at dead ends. The trick here is to lure both the regular zombies and your undead girlfriend while at the same time, ensuring that you get your girl to her cage and the other zombies leave you unbitten.

The Visuals and Overall Delivery

Calling the graphics simple and basic would be undermining the idea of the game –though visually, that really is all there is to it. The platforms are large horizontal bars. The characters are animated stick figures and the background is a big bright rectangle with nothing but a white-fill-in. The good thing about it all is that all the elements are just so well put together that the game feels like an actual artwork, as opposed to something that was just put together in order to provide a graphic for the game.

Yes, the graphics are intentionally simple, and with that, the emphasis on the storyline and narrative is magnified. In terms of gameplay, the basic elements make everything easy to distinguish and the game more understandable in a single glance. Since the game’s complexity comes from the fact that you must deftly separate your zombie from the other zombies, the visuals make this a whole lot simpler to accomplish.

This is one of those times that the game is perfect as it is. You can see that the graphics are not-half done. There is plenty of thought and effort placed in animating the characters (we love the way the girlfriend’s figure goes into this creepy-colored zombie mode when you approach, which makes us think that she has a mode where she actually looks human and starts getting all zombie-looking when she wants to eat you).

The narrative is delivered during the game itself –while you are actually playing even. These are nothing more than short one to two liners that pretty much outlines how the lead character approaches his life with a zombie gal and how even he is in doubt about how good of an idea this all is. In the end, it makes one wonder what kinds of decisions we may choose to make in world overrun by zombies, and after that kind of morose thinking, tuning your thoughts back to reality will certainly feel plenty good (and make you more appreciative of the fact that a zombie apocalypse is an unlikely possibility).

Who Should Play This Game?

In many ways, it is easy to see that the developers behind this game had plenty to think about, and not mention, talk about. The concept is bizarre, cute and a little tragic, but one also has to wonder: what brought all this about? For one thing, you would most certainly have to be a zombie fan for this game. There is no visual depiction of gore, rotting corpses or even mention of what a zombie literally does –all we know is that the girl is a zombie and so are the others. In fact, the lead character is the only living person we ever get to see.

And as with a great majority of zombie games, there are no discussions as to ascertain the origin of the outbreak, where they are, or even what year it is. But going into those discussions would simply muddy up the waters of this already clear flowing stream of a great story. All you need to do is to start following it along. The ending is, for some of you zombie veterans, a little predictable, but still something that many of us would still appreciate. In fact, it even makes one wonder, what kind of ending would we choose for ourselves given the same situation?

The Verdict

The hard thing about artistically crafted games is that they exist more for the story and the art than they do for the gameplay. In terms of being a game, I Saw Her Standing There is pretty solid and complete –and even manages to beef up the replay value with the inclusion of challenges in the form of unlockables at the end of the game. Sure, some of the unlockable content makes the game ridiculously easy, but you can also turn on some of the handicaps that would make the stages plenty challenging (some to the point of being completely impossible). But even with that, the game is just too short. The stages end abruptly just as the challenges get inventive and interesting, which is a real shame since even we could not justify the inclusion of more stages if it means having to extend the narrative pointlessly. Which brings us to the second part: the plot of the game is as important as the game itself. It may not always be the case, but such is the reality with a game like I Saw Her Standing There. We play it for as much reason as knowing the whole story as much as we enjoy the platforming bits. We give this game a love-struck survivor’s 90/100.

Play I Saw Her Standing There at Kongregate