The Wordless 'Virginia' Teaser Really Channels 'Twin Peaks'

Variable State's mystery is free of dialogue, and that makes all the difference.

Variable State

Homages to Twin Peaks in games aren’t all that uncommon. The most famous — or infamous — is Deadly Premonition, which takes off on its own wildly unique direction after the first several hours of quasi-Lynchian exposition; Ron Gilbert’s upcoming Thimbleweed Park draws heavily from the show and its ilk as well, seemingly defining itself through its characteristic point-and-click design.

Then there’s Virgina which appears to radically recontextualize its premise by taking dialogue out of the equation entirely.

It’s the kind of change you may not notice if you’ve only seen news of the game pop up online. Even playing the short teaser out now on Steam could leave you wondering whether or not the silent, real-time vignettes are representative of the entire game’s structure. The experience tantalizes you into a deeper, weirder world.

That’s seems to be the case, as the few experiences you do have in the teaser — a series of interactive montages, really, that sketch out the vaguest premise: a pair of FBI agents on the case for a missing boy in heartland America — are mesmerizingly strange.

An errant buffalo, a red door, light casting out from behind window blinds — these all feel authentically Lynch-ian, but what really sells the connection to the imagery (not to mention giving a strong identity of its own) is that no one character ever speaks. The narrative relies instead on context, expression, and scene blocking for its digital actors. The difference is striking.

Developer Jonathan Burroughs looks to have brought an auteur’s eye to well-tread ground of the small town murder mystery, if murder is indeed at Virginia’s center. But somehow I get the impression that whatever is really going on, it’s probably not going to be on the high end of the conventional scale. With Virginia out in a week, we won’t have long to wait, and if the teaser is anything to go by, it could be something great.

Related Tags