Published on November 28th, 2023 | by S. Masoud Kazemi
Universe for Sale Review
Summary: A complex and dense non-linear story told in one of the best art designs of this year.
The idea of escaping from reality is the main reason for many people to play video games. Games provide a unique universe with fresh ideas and rules in which you can become the master of its world. That’s what Universe for Sale means. Creating and selling universes in which people could get what they want. Yet there is a sad truth in it that the game explores beautifully in its non-linear narrative.
The story of Universe for Sale is about a cultist who meets a young girl named Lila who has the ability to create universes based on what the customers want and sell them to them. While at first glance it seems like an interesting idea which is, it becomes much more complex than that. Tipping its toe into environmental issues, religion, parenthood, and most importantly the psychology of trauma.
For a point-and-click game, Universe for Sale offers a good variety of gameplay that includes different mini-games and finding the right formula for creating a certain type of universe. But from start to end, the strongest point of the game is the story, and above that is the narrative. It has a non-linear narrative similar to Memento that will keep players’ minds engaged throughout the game which has also filled the void of gameplay.
At certain times the story becomes so intriguing that gameplay interference damages the pace of the narrative. In one of the chapters as I desperately wanted to learn more and find answers, had to play the Creating Universe mini-game which was frustrating. Not that the game itself is frustrating, but the placement of that particular mini-game has damaged the rhythm of the story.
Still, the story of Universe for Sale does something miraculously great that many games can’t and that is to explore multiple topics in such an intertwined way that you cannot remove one and still have the same impact. Every aspect of the story is connected to the next and before that, therefore the story is dense right enough. The line between becoming a shallow or overly dense story is thin, yet Universe for Sale has managed to do it right.
The only issue I encountered was the predictability of some story threads. Not that the story is predictable from miles away, it’s just that the game does a poor job of truly hiding the clues that will lead to the ending of the game. For someone quite familiar with twisting stories, they could probably guess correctly what might happen.
But before we get established into the story or gameplay of Universe for Sale, it is actually the unique design and art of this game that will capture the eyes. There is a good mixture of familiarity and freshness to it at the same time that makes it such a wonderful game to watch. And thankfully there are many moments that the game allows players to just enjoy small moments or a great view in the game.
Lastly, there is the lack of good music in the game but I won’t count it as a con for the game. It is understandable to not be able to create the best music for indie games, but it is important to point out that adding more amazing soundtracks would have made some scenes of the game even more magical.
Universe for Sale is truly a gem of an indie game that I would suggest to anyone interested in a unique and non-linear narrative. It has a few issues regarding the pace and hiding clues of the story, but the correct density makes up for it. Also for a point-and-click game, there are good mini-games although the placement of a few could have been better.