Thoughts and Musings

Kupo Remarks: Afterlove EP Demo

The two main character, Rama and Cinta

Lately, I’ve been consuming a lot of media involving bands and the art of making music. I watched “Blue Giant”, a movie about one’s pursuit of jazz. I’m watching both two spring-season anime about music: the third season of “Sound Euphonium” which the band newbies of two years ago have now become the leaders to deal with the newest headaches and problems, and “Girls Band Cry” about a newbie high school drop out who meets the guitarist of her favorite song and in true rock fashion they form their own band as the newbie learns the harsh realities of life for the first time.

And, lo and behold, one more drops in. As part of the Steam 2024 LudoNarrative weekend, studio Pikselnesia released their demo of “Afterlove EP” - a kind of adventure-style game about a boy, his band reforming after a year-long hiatus, and the recovery process after grieving for so long in silence and loneliness.

Rama on his bed, cursing at himself to get it together

I’ve been interested in this game for so long ever since I saw it in some game showcase that I can’t remember. What stood out to me was the art is by one of my favorite artists “soyatu”, the game was developed with a guy who worked on a previous narrative game I enjoyed (rest in power Fahmi), and I’ve been really interested in checking out and supporting games developed in SEA countries. Plus, it’s been nice to see it after so long, since 2021 I believe.

After an hour and a half of playtime, roaming the streets of Jakarta while adventuring to different story beats, I enjoyed my time meeting all the characters and just being in the main character Rama’s perspective. While the rhythm minigame is pretty decent (and easy as a rhythm game player), what truly impacted me a whole bunch is the art, the cutscenes, and just the overall narrative.

The band, jamming once more after a year long hiatus

(Warning, ever so slight spoilers below but if you already read the game description you’ll be fine)

The story starts off in the past with Rama’s band, “Sigmund Feud” getting ready to perform. Cinta, his girlfriend, gives him a bit of motivation to release their EP - a sealed envelope with instructions to open it when it debuts. As the night goes on, Cinta does her best to support him and his band, but there are inklings of health problems she is obviously going through. She manages, and the performance went great.

Time passes, and as Rama plugs in to record a new idea for a song, he misses a call and messages while he’s in his own world. After a while, he lifts his headphones away and reads on his phone: From Cinta.

Next scene, emergency room. Funeral service. Rama standing alone, black umbrella over him. It all happened so fast. Fade to black.

An unknown voice breaks the silence.

“Hello~? Rama? Come on, get up - who sleeps until 1pm?” Scene opens to Rama lying in bed.

Adit saying that it took Rama long enough to meet once more, after the incident

I really like this opening (though I wish we could have heard the band play), especially with the unknown voice. You eventually piece it together that it’s Cinta’s voice. After all this time, Cinta is still with Rama. Not in a spiritual sense. Rather, a literal voice in his head.

It’s clear that Rama is still dealing with grief. After all, it’s not a race or a competition when it comes to how long one is “healed” of their emotions. But to have this as, what seems to be, one of the main conflicts of this demo and probably the game, I think is real interesting and can be so impactful if done well. So far, it’s been hitting real good marks. For example, the Cinta in Rama’s head in a way interrupts or influences his thoughts to where Rama blurts out his response out loud even when he’s in a group - leading to confusion or awkward moments. The Cinta in Rama’s head gets jealous, defensive, or hesitant when faced certain social situations - but doesn’t skip a beat when it comes to praising him and his talents. The Cinta in Rama’s head acts as his side character that comments, reacts, and analyses in both positive and negative ways.

What’s even more interesting that the Cinta in Rama’s head knows all this. Rama, in a kind of ultimatum brought by his bandmates (or just the bandmate, really) goes to therapy for the first time. Cinta says something to the effect of “I wonder if she’ll make you realize that I’m not real” and while Rama denies it, Cinta shuts down the conversation.

I’m sure that’ll lead to a big point that Rama will have to face in the 30 days this game takes place - will Rama and should Rama move on to where he will never be able to talk to Cinta anymore? You have to ask of Rama - is this healthy for you?

Grief takes its place in many shapes and forms. And the cruel reality is that time keeps on moving forward. With or without you. And so does the people around you. They move on, have changes in their lives, their own dreams and desires they want to chase. So when you are ready to restart, to try again? They might not be there.

Tasya saying she's a hot commodity

Rama feels that he’s ready to move forward, even with everything going on. He wants to try again. And luckily, his friends support him. Somewhat. There were kinda peeved about it at first, but they are willing to give him a chance. But not without the cost of action. He has to prove himself and show he’s willing to change and do better.

But how far will he go if eventually, down the line, it will cause him to lose Cinta for a second time?

The Record Store storekeep praising how Rama figured out a meaning of a song

I hope the rest of the game will tackle that question, I would love to see it go in that direction. If not, then it’ll just be another story about dealing with grief. I think the game itself is in a unique position to ask those questions about grief and the ways it affects people. Not just the individual, but the people around him. I love the idea of a time frame (as a game has to end eventually), a snippet of Rama’s life to balance everything and as the player being able to control and choose different paths.

There’s many more things I can talk about in just this demo, but I’ll save those when the game actually comes out. Again, I’m super hyped about this game, and hope it can exceed my expectations as it’s doing so right now!

Texts from Tasya asking Rama to hang out, Rama asks for drink promos and she replies with 50% off for sad boys

Do check out the overall project, wishlist the game, and check out some of Fahmi’s games in the meantime (Love Coffee Talk!)! Also, please play the demo! I would love to hear your thoughts too~.