A scene from ‘Antariksha Sanchar’.
A scene from ‘Antariksha Sanchar’.

Lounge Review: ‘Idli’, ‘dosa’ and video games

'Antariksha Sanchar' is an under-development point-and-click adventure that takes place in an early 20th century south Indian temple town

It’s not every day that you come across a video game that claims inspiration from a Bharatanatyam dance production and a 20th century south Indian mathematician. But then Antariksha Sanchar: Transmissions In Space is more than a video game—it’s a way to engage with a meticulously researched and highly detailed, speculative science-fantasy world that weaves together strands from Tamil culture, Carnatic music, Indian mythology, science and ancient philosophy.

Created by Avinash Kumar and Kabir David from New Delhi’s audio-visual collective BLOT!—better known for their electrifying, mind-bending live performances—in collaboration with the Quicksand Gameslab studio, Antariksha Sanchar is an under-development point-and-click adventure that takes place in an early 20th century south Indian temple town and follows a young boy, Ramanujan (named after the mathematician who inspired the character), and his family as he solves puzzles, encounters mythical temple creatures and explores the mysteries of the cosmos. The game’s dark, atmospheric dreamworld, populated with Vedic steampunk instruments and real-life characters, has attracted a lot of attention in the world of independent gaming.

In June, the game got Greenlit, i.e. it got the number of votes needed to guarantee a release on the highly popular and tightly curated Steam platform within 15 days, the fastest Indian game to do so. Ever since a demo at the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest that same month, it has made appearances at a number of indie gaming festivals, including the Indie Prize Showcase in Tel Aviv and Johannesburg’s A Maze. festival and has also been selected for the forthcoming IndieCade festival in Los Angeles.

The first chapter of the game—a 2-hour prelude of sorts subtitled Episode Zero— is scheduled to be released in early 2017 after five years in development. It will be complemented by a graphic novel, a series of wind-up toys, and a soundtrack of Carnatic and electronic music, all entry points into the larger universe Kumar and David have created. The website for the game is like an “almanac", linking to 3D models inspired by south Indian culture, a SoundCloud playlist inter-mixing classical music with contemporary Indian electronica and concept art posters. “The idea is to create a vertical slice of this entire world that we spent a lot of the past five years researching and creating," says Kumar. “We’re all really interested in exploring trans-media, so the idea was always to create a story world, and from that story world try and take out manifests."

Following the release of Episode Zero, the game’s creators plan to seek funding for two more 8-hour-long chapters, which follow Ramanujan and his family as they travel across India, and finally to outer space. Keep an eye out for the game on Steam early next year. Till then, you can watch gameplay trailers and sample the world of Antariksha Sanchar on their website Antariskha.in.