One of the more emotional and beautifully told VR experiences in recent memory.
By Desmond Madison, Greenlit Content
Emerging from the outside of a tunnel in the middle of a forest, you peer around your environment and are immediately awestruck by the whispering trees that surround you. Just then, a crow lands on the train tracks, and with a simple gaze into its peering eyes, you are sent surging into its being to inhabit the bird’s feathery frame, and peer into the world from its perspective. You hear more crows land around you and you notice they all stare at you in the same way.
It’s then that you are introduced to the core mechanic of Manifest 99, a poetic interactive narrative from the team at Flight School Studio.
This is a controller-free experience that relies entirely on a gaze-driven design that will advance your place in this dark and surreal dreamscape as you stare at each character, crow, and object telling a haunting story from beginning to end. When your journey begins at the back of a train, you’ll start to unravel a tale of loss, loneliness, survival, and redemption as you follow each character through a short glimpse back at the circumstances that brought them to where they were. Along the ride, you may also come across objects in the train that can unlock more details on each character’s story, but many of these hidden items are completely optional. They make for a nice incentive to come back and experience this relatively short story again and again.
It should also be said that one of the most intriguing aspects of the way this story is told is that it is completely devoid of spoken dialogue, which makes it more universally appealing for a global audience. As the train continues barreling down its path through the afterlife, it becomes no surprise that Flight School Studio was honored with multiple awards for this unique and groundbreaking piece of interactive storytelling. Many observers have reported even tearing up and crying by the end of the path, and it’s easy to see why with so much raw emotion seeping from every piece of handcrafted animation along the way.
It’s difficult to really go into too many details about the plot itself without spoiling a story as poignant and touching as what is to be experienced in Manifest 99, but players will want to break this one out for new VR users and consider it a go-to in the roster of content that showcases the power of storytelling in an all-new medium. With characters that come alive with emotion as they make their pilgrimage into the great beyond, you may be surprised to find yourself tearing up without a single word spoken.
With so much humanity on display without a single human portrayed in the story itself, you’ll want to book a ticket on this train more than once just to appreciate the love and attention to detail that went into creating such a haunting and uniquely universal tale that could only have been told in the VR medium.