When I was a kid, I loved The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis had a way of depicting stories I knew from the Bible and making me feel things about them, things I had never felt from reading the (to a third-grader) dry text of Scripture. In The Magician’s Nephew, the characters witness the world of Narnia being sung into reality by Aslan the lion and the countless stars in the sky. That gave me a sense of wonder and amazement that “In the beginning…” had never done. Similarly, So Let Us Melt reminded me of the awe that an act of creation can engender, and what a joy it is to witness.
So Let Us Melt is the first VR experience produced by The Chinese Room and tells the story of Custodian 98 and the other Living Machines that build the world of Kenopsia for the people sleeping in Polar City. The Custodians look like intricately carved seashells that are possessed by Gushers and float around singing to each other and the planet. Their job is to sing the world into existence. They sing to the ground to bring about life. They sing to the giant Living Machines that help them build the world. They sing to other Custodians to communicate. I played as Custodian 98 and floated around the planet singing to fellow Custodians, 98’s Drone, to Living Machines and living things alike. I felt an upwelling of joy. I realized that the incredible soundtrack that composer Jessica Curry was piping into my ears was the echo of the Custodians around Kenopsia, singing.
Before I even got to the title screen and menu, So Let Us Melt told me that it was best experienced with headphones. Since it’s a VR game, that is important for triangulation. But when my dog jumped off the bed and accidentally unplugged my headphones, it reminded me how terrible most music sounds coming out of a phone speaker. The music is not only the soaring angelic choirs Curry used in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and the driving piano lines she debuted in Dear Esther. So Let Us Melt adds an electronic element that is, for now, solely its own. And rather than Custodian 98’s songs creating dissonance over this majesty, the music is layered and looped perfectly to progress when 98 sings. Every sound is both literally and metaphorically in perfect harmony.Their job is to sing the world into existence.
Humans tell the story, but they don’t feature in the interactive part of the game. They have heard of the Custodians and the other Living Machines that built their world. The Living Machines are programmed to love the people in Polar City and do everything they can to bring about a perfect Kenopsia on schedule. This means that when the comet Lassiter threatened the planet, the Living Machines had to decide what was best for the sleeping people and Kenopsia. But they could only do so much.
Thousands of years later, Custodian 98 awoke to a new song. The people of Polar City are not programmed to love, as the Living Machines were, but they do, and they sing to Custodian 98, pulling it out of its slumber, bidding it join them. The grace expressed by the people for the Custodians is overwhelming, as the cataclysm still came to Kenopsia. But the Custodians are not blamed or shamed or even viewed as failing. Instead, they are honored for their work and revered for their sacrifice.
So Let Us Melt reminds me of the explosive joy of creation, that bringing something new into the world is worth singing and shouting about. Whether you are bringing new life or new ideas into the world, every act of creation is a wonder that should be celebrated.