You step out from your house, onto the pink Martian frontier. An inspiring piano soundtrack underscores your every step — every slow, choppy step in your heavy spacesuit. Maybe you'll jog around the landscape. Maybe you'll get in your '50s-style car and drive through the bizarre scenery. Maybe you'll be hit by lightning, flip over and drive upside down.
This is Naut, a "pay-what-you-want" astronaut simulator, and it is majestic. Made by three people — Lucie Viatgé, Tom Victor and Titouan Millet — all part of a French game development group called Klondike, Naut is a sort of goofy, joyful take on exploration games that've been en vogue in the indie space as of late.
"Naut was made during a game jam which had the theme 'Shelter,'" Tom Victor, the game's programmer, told Polygon. "We quickly thought of a roadtrip, and the various encounters you can make along. How far would you go to reach the next house, what awaits at the end of the day? Like in many of the game jams we've done, we were a bit too ambitious, so we mostly tried to have fun with the elements we had."
Naut features truly epic co-op play, where two goofy astronauts can attempt to navigate the bizarre landscape together.
"we found it hilarious to see our nauts flip their stupid car with such a serious and epic soundtrack"
"We didn't feel the need to justify our split-screen, we simply wanted to be able to play with a friend, sit together in a car, maybe do races if you find another one, or even feel desperate when you're abandoned in the wild during the night," Said Victor. "The game's physics are completely broken, but we decided to let it that way because we found it hilarious to see our nauts flip their stupid car with such a serious and epic soundtrack in the background."
That soundtrack — and the colorful visuals — really sell the experience.
The music is dynamic and designed to complement every crazy situation you might find yourself in within this world. "I tried to make something melancholic," explained composer and universe designer Titouan Millet. "But at the same time kind of epic. Like, you are lost on Mars forever, far away from your home planet and your friends and family, but in the same time you are now able to run or drive through this amazing landscape, as fast as you can, as long as you want, free."
"because we wanted to have fun making Naut, the game became messed up in an enjoyable way"
"Naut is a mix between an American roadtrip and a space odyssey," Lucie Viatgé, the game's graphic designer, told us. "When we made Naut, we were in a mood to try out things and didn't really intend to stick to anything in particular. And because we wanted to have fun making Naut, the game became messed up in an enjoyable way."
"As for me, I personally wanted to make convertible cars with flashy colors and cute 'astro/cosmo/spationauts' — and this is actually why the game is called that way, we didn't want to attribute our 'nauts' to any country or culture."
There's something incredibly freeing about playing Naut. It certainly feels like a quirky piece born out of experienced designers playing around at a game jam, and it is. But there's a nobility to it, underneath the goofiness, a sense that exploring this world — by foot or by neon cadillac — is difficult and worthwhile.
"We would like for the player to experience the emptiness and immensity of our Mars," said Viatgé. "To feel lost and lonely, or travel with a friend and have some fun while exploring the pink hills."