Last Updated on November 10, 2021
Warning: Story Spoilers Ahead
206 is a short narrative-adventure game created by solo developer Yo Fujii. It was released as a demo in April 2020. Japanese independent game developers are relatively unknown in English speaking spaces. So 206 was one of many games that I had stashed in a folder with no pre-decisions or research done before downloading and storing. I know absolutely nothing about it other than that it was made by a Japanese independent developer, which is a demographic of games that I only found in the RPG maker horror section of indie games (i.e. Kikkiyama of Yume Nikki).
All I knew was the pixel art is minimal and organic, with cute, clean cut furniture sets, a soft color palette of blues, grays, and browns with animated cutscenes of the protagonist deep in thought, which is rare to find in pixel art games. The title tells you nothing:”206″. I thought maybe it could be a date or room number. But according to itch.io, it was published in April 2020, and the description is simply, “Have you done everything you need?” I assumed it’s a room number since, after all, the game literally takes place in one room.
I don’t recall if there was anything in the game itself that explained the title. But nonetheless, 206 was a game that I found onto my Twitter timeline one day. And when I saw this cute little face in the promotion, I knew I had to follow Yo Fujii. They had a sizeable follower base already, so I guess I really was late to the Yo Fujii follow train.
When You Wake Up In The Morning, Something Doesn’t Seem Right
The game’s itch.io description isn’t as cryptic as you think. As soon as you launch it, you get the stark white and bold logo of 206, with a style that entails this game may be in the action genre. But you’re met with an overlay of a dreamy blue haze and multicolored specks.
Then a cutscene happens, where the protagonist talks about the inevitability of death and the enigmatic fate that awaits her outside the door. She wakes up and turns off the alarm of her ringing square phone. Then it is up to the player what they want her to do. She can explore her room, eat breakfast on the balcony, clean coffee stains, wash clothes, or take a bath. This is really what the game seems like at first, “Have you done everything you need?”. She takes care of herself, despite not seeming too enthusiastic about it.
If you do enough exploring, you will find a diary not far from her bed. You can read it if you want to. Going through her daily routine is a main mechanic, but when you leave her room, all seems normal until she crosses the street and gets hit by a car. A “game over” screen manifests, and she laments how she spent her last hour on earth. Then the game restarts and you must start her morning over again.
Each time she dies and restarts the morning, be sure to read the diary every time, as it allows you to find out more about the protagonist. She is in high school (probably around 17 or 18 years old) who misses connections with other people. Bored in a society where connections with others are often limited by our own anxieties and insecurities spawned by our ever repressive, manufactured societal expectations of others, she is sullen by this one dissolved relationship.
Throughout the game, there are small vignettes of her thoughts of her friendships and dissatisfaction with her life. This repeats over and over, imitating the ennui of life routine and feeling trapped in this circle of unbroken momentum. Each time she gets hit by the car, depending on what object you decide to let her hold before leaving her room, she makes a quip about it, such as her sucky coffee or her clunky cellphone, or she thinks about the person she writes about in her journal. She is begging the gods for a life difference. But it never comes. Then, after 6 playthroughs, I realized this metaphor is no longer relevant, because it turned out this game was a prototype for a much bigger game. Nonetheless, this is a short game about preserving the memories of others that no longer live in your presence, and how they pretty much die inside your head as you lose contact with them.
The Beauty Of A Brief Moment
There isn’t too much else to say about 206 because I didn’t realize it was a prototype until I played it. But the game is incredibly charming for being merely a minuscule scene of a much larger project. It flows seamlessly in its small world. And it didn’t even seem like a demo at all, due to how meticulously arranged it was. 206 is a game where you must simply sit deep in its narrow place and sit in the big head of the main character and listen in on her bittersweet story of unrequited love and broken connections.The art style and story telling is much needed in the land of 2D pixel games.
Much of the horror genre is oversaturated with edginess, disorganized assets and mechanics, or just crude story writing. 206 so far is showing me a game that is a must play for fans of the narrative adventure game. It already has solid writing and an interactive system for the environment that makes it engaging and more than likely heavily puzzle driven.
Our rooms and environments tell us more about a character than their inner dialogue. I also sense that the supernatural or psychic powers may play a role in this future game. Maybe our protagonist is going to leave her cocoon of repressed feelings by upending her town and rescuing the person she talks about in her journal or maybe she will have to fight off a demon that will force her to reconcile herself to save everyone else. Maybe the world of 206 is already infiltrated with the disturbance of the supernatural and our protagonist has to navigate it in search for her friends. But none of these questions will be answered until the full game is released.
By now, it seems like the project has evolved into a much more beautifully painted world compared to this small one in 206. I can’t wait to see the expansion or rather the evolution, where I will see our protagonist with her big, bobbing head finally be able to cross that street unscathed.
Yo Fujii can be found on twitter: @YO_CC2 and itch.io.
Wei Yuan Lee is a interactive fiction writer and game dev. He enjoys spooky interactive fiction, quirky platformers and RPGmaker games. He checks Itch.io religiously.