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Inkle reveals a surprise collaboration with Google in The Forever Labyrinth, 'an art-filled quest through time and space'

 The Forever Labyrinth screenshot - woman standing next to a large vase in The Passage of Statues.
The Forever Labyrinth screenshot - woman standing next to a large vase in The Passage of Statues.

Inkle, the developer of highly-regarded narrative-focused games including 80 Days, Heaven's Vault, and A Highland Song, has unveiled a new game developed in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture: A free, browser-based "art-filled quest through time and space" called The Forever Labyrinth.

"The Forever Labyrinth is a highly-replayable run-based narrative adventure, with lots of characters to meet, and multiple mysteries to resolve," Inkle tweeted. "Every time you enter the Labyrinth will reform, with new paths and secrets. But beware - in every labyrinth, there is a monster.

"The game is built using the wonderful, eclectic collection hosted on googlearts, from museums all around the world. Paintings are portals. Some weird, some beautiful, some shocking and some hilarious. To make sense of the Labyrinth is to understand what you see."

Google Arts and Culture describes itself as a "non-commercial initiative" that works with artists and cultural institutions around the world "to preserve and bring the world’s art and culture online so it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere." It's a Google site so of course there's some promotion of its own products, and the page currently offers a link to "reinvent your selfies with AI," which frankly I could've done without. But it's also a remarkable repository of images and information covering everything from Dutch masters to Alabama quiltmakers.

The Forever Labyrinth draws on that database to generate its puzzles and portals, which will carry players from one location to another in search of Professor Sheldrake—a quest that very quickly becomes more complicated and ominous as it descends into a strange, supernatural realm of portals and puzzles. It feels mechanically simpler than previous Inkle games, but that doesn't necessarily make it a show experience: I've only spent a small amount of time with it so far, but I get the impression there's a lot to see and do.

Progress in The Forever Realm is saved automatically, so you can come and go as you please, and from what I've seen so far it's not the sort of puzzle game that aims to confound, but will instead gently nudge you in the direction you're meant to go. All the images in the game also contain links to the main Google Arts and Culture website, so you can learn more about what you're looking at.

The net result is essentially a slow-paced tour through an art gallery—one that just happens to contain a missing professor, a dying woman, a mystery, and a monster. So, a really cool art gallery, then. The Forever is playable now at goo.gle/foreverlabyrinth.