You have to see The Object.
The Object is so great, it just cannot even be described. At first, when everyone was talking about The Object, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. But then I decided to become a Seeker and find The Object, and I do not regret my decision. Have I convinced you yet? Will you become a Seeker and seek out The Object? If so, get ready to play Trackless.
The minimalist art style of Trackless is probably the first thing you notice. All the space is filled, so it isn’t minimalist in the sense of emptiness, but rather in the sense of detail. Each object is made up of 2D planes illustrated in a hand-drawn style. When you walk around people and objects, the same plane continues to face you, giving them a sort of paradoxical flat depth. It is interesting, if not impressive, and that sentiment sums up the entire game.
You navigate this world with the traditional WASD and mouse controls, but you interact with objects by typing in one-word commands. This hearkens back to the style of Zork or MUDs, but the one-word minimalism adds an welcome wordplay element. You’re discouraged from using the same, uncreative commands, so it is almost tempting to get out a thesaurus to find a way to say, for example, “go forward” in a single verb.
Short but a little sweet
However, Trackless is also minimalist in its content. It’s an incredibly short experience, clocking in at around 90 minutes – if you happen to have a Western-religious background for easy puzzle solving and don’t care much for exploring.
If you do explore, you might run into the minimalist programming. At one point, I was pretty sure I had entered an area that I wasn’t supposed to. My footsteps gave off the sounds of water when I was standing on dry ground, and eventually I clipped through the environment and found myself in no-man’s land. There is no way to load a previous save and go back, so I was forced to find a way to proceed, not ever really being sure which of the glitches I experienced was intentional.
The playtime of Trackless might not bother you, because it ends up feeling like a short story. Unfortunately, the payoff doesn’t happen until the end of your career as a Seeker after you’re finally approved to see The Object. As a result, you may get bored with the straightforward puzzles and the somewhat sparse environment with few variations in color before you reach the end. The soundtrack starts to get more interesting in the latter part of the game, but it isn’t really until the last few minutes that the point of it all becomes clear.
Without spoiling too much, and with the disclaimer that this is only my interpretation, Trackless actually has a nice ironic message. This ritual of Seekers in the future undergoing a series of trials to prove their worthiness to gaze upon The Object turns out to be a hollow cult plagued by meaningless consumerism. At this point, the title also becomes ironic, because you realize that, far from being trackless, you’ve been railroaded pretty much the entire time.