Passage is a perfect game.
Not perfect in the sense that it is better than all other games. It’s perfect in the sense that it has nothing extraneous. Every element seems to have the incredible weight of necessity.
Beyond its elegance, the brilliance of Passage is that it uses the language of video games to subtly reinterpret familiar situations, giving the player a new perspective on games they’ve already played. The maze that is always below you is a stand in for the confounding gauntlet of professional choices we all have to navigate. Points and treasure chests represent the material riches of life that don’t always come easy. Life-long companionship is the thing that we irrationally desire even though it doesn’t seem to tangibly benefit us.
The graphics of Passage were made to fit within the constraints of Kokoromi’s Gamma256 show. However, they work on an additional level. The themes of the game, the choices between love and riches and adventure, are just the sort of choices that are now being grappled with by those who have grown up playing video games. Passage’s visuals are poignantly ironic, a nostalgic throwback to a time when its player’s worries were more superficial, but used to speak to their contemporary concerns.
Eric-Jon Rossel Waugh once wrote that in Silent Hill 2 you almost always get the ending you deserve. No more accurate thing can be said about Passage, and that aspect is simultaneously what makes it so much a game and so much like life.
You can’t win in Passage, you and your companion will always die, alone or beside each other. The game’s final moments lay bare how much of our sense of meaning and value are wrapped up in time and death. No moment is extraneous in the face of oblivion.