Demos making a triumphant return the past few years is one of the most significant canon years in gaming lately. Having a demo available beforehand works in favor of both the developer and the consumer. Steam doubling down on demos led me to discover a slew of promising indie titles I never would have noticed otherwise. I stumbled upon Tmesis Studio’s Point & Click adventure Universe for Sale thanks to its excellent demo available here. Here’s me presenting Gameffine’s Universe for Sale review – an old mining colony in Jupiter, a young girl with tentacles for hair, a talking monkey ironically named “Bandar” and cultists who strip flesh from their bones. What’s there not to like?
Far and Away
Being a Point & Click adventure game, the main attraction of Universe for Sale is the narrative. As mentioned above the game takes place in the fantastical setting of a former mining station on the planet Jupiter. The game essentially revolves around two main characters – Lila, a young woman with tentacles for hair who has the power to create tiny universes, and the Master, a mysterious man who belongs to a cult where enlightenment is gained through separating limbs and organs from one’s body. The narrative constantly switches between the two characters to explore themes such as loss, acceptance, varying perspectives, conflicting ideologies, religious zeal, destiny, etc. There’s also a parallel storyline involving a mother reading her daughter a bedtime story but I’ll leave it for you guys to explore.
To say more about the story would mean ruining the mystery of this heartwarming and intriguing tale Tsmesis Studio has crafted. As someone who grew up in a Hindu community, it was surprising to see references to ancient Hindu scriptures and philosophies throughout the game. While the story is pretty short (around 4-5 hours) and can get predictable towards the end, the likable characters, worldbuilding, and lore of Universe for Sale make it worth experiencing. The themes it discusses are powerful and the writers manage to give the players an outsider’s perspective on the events that transpire. I do wish that the game offered some branching paths for repeated playthroughs, though. There are also some grammatical errors and typos in the game, but they won’t throw you off the experience.
Goddess of Creation
Universe for Sale is pretty simplistic when it comes to the gameplay. A majority of the game is spent walking around, taking in the sights, and engaging in meaningful conversations with the bizarre cast denizens of the colony. There is one interesting mini-game in the game and that involves creating byte-sized universes as Lila. Players are tasked with creating custom universes in a ceramic cup according to the client’s demands. While it takes a bit of trial & error to figure out which ingredients do what, I ended up having fun with the mini-game and spent a good deal of time experimenting. There are also a handful of puzzles thrown in here and there, but they’re fairly simple and can be solved in a jiffy.
Aside from the charming story, the other big draw to Universe for Sale is the art design. I can’t give the art department enough credit for this. Universe for Sale is hands down, the most gorgeous game I’ve played this year. Everything is drawn and animated by hand – the detailed, vibrant, dream-like objects are animated in such a fluid and organic manner that it feels like you’re looking at the world through an HD Kaleidoscope. There’s so much attention to detail in the environments and character designs that I must have taken at least 100 screenshots. If you ask me, the game is worth playing for the visuals alone. The excellent art design is accompanied by a relaxing soundtrack that hits hard. As far as the audio-visual department is concerned, Universe for Sale is a 10/10.
There was one problem I ran into while playing Universe for Sale and that was getting a controller to work and running the game on the Steam Deck. I played the prologue on the Steam Deck last month but for the life of me, I couldn’t get the game to work on the Deck. It boots up all right but none of the control options would work when trying to select the ‘new game’ option. I tried the default gamepad controls, touchpad controls, and even the touchscreen controls but the option couldn’t be selected. Everything else seems to work just fine. This was the case when I tried the game on my PC with a DualSense controller as well. I hope the devs look into this issue when the game launches today. One other problem I had was Steam overlay’s screenshot notification leaving a grey artifact in its shape on the bottom right while playing on 1440p resolution. I had to alt-tab every time I took a screenshot to make it go away.
Universe for Sale is a charming little adventure with an emotional narrative, likable characters, and gorgeous art design. It’s a game you can comfortably hop into on a lazy day and get lost in while sipping hot chocolate. Come for the story, stay for the visuals.
FINAL RATING: 80/100
Universe for Sale ReviewUniverse for Sale Review
- Gorgeous art design
- Hand-drawn animations look amazing
- Interesting setting and narrative
- On the short side of things
- A few grammatical mistakes here and there
- Couldn't get gamepad to work