Imagine you’re soaring, as if in a dream, over sweeping mountains, dense rock formations, lush waterfalls, and massive blue mushrooms sprouting from flat, calm seas, all awash in a foggy glow. The landscapes of Water Planet, a new first-person exploration game/music video hybrid by Miami electronic musician Virgo, are both strange and familiar (they could be backdrops for a fairy tale or a Tekken stage). Players are welcome to explore them and reveal their secrets, or simply watch them unfold. Take a listen to the opening moments of “Disappear,” the first single from Virgo’s Water Planet EP (and check out the video by Eleanor Petry)—it’s as hazy and ethereal as the game itself, and easy to imagine yourself in a fantastical, watery world.
Virgo is the alter-ego and musical project of gamer and filmmaker Elizabeth Ann Clark, who describes Virgo as “an elven alien-space elf from a blue planet, near a bright star in a dense spiral galaxy. I have this birthmark on my leg that looks like a nebula, and I secretly like to think it’s a map to my origins.” Water Planet, both the EP and the game, take us to this aforementioned world. In fact, explains Clark, “At first, I envisioned Virgo as a music video project where the music would be secondary.” It was around this time she began teaching herself video game development, “watching tutorials endlessly” and making visuals for her live performances with Unreal Engine, which would later become the game’s platform.
Water Planet begins with you landing on Virgo’s now-abandoned home planet to refuel your ship. Each level then corresponds to one of the EP’s four songs, enabling you to become what Clark describes as “the lead in the music video.” While there’s emphasis on the listening experience, there’s plenty to explore, either by flying orb, swimming beneath the sea, or walking across the mountaintops. You’ll discover old monuments and learn the planet’s history, revealing why its people are gone; you’ll meet alien flora and fauna, some of whom may be able to speak, and stumble on the words of the former inhabitants, wisdom upon which to meditate.
Water Planet shimmers and glows, transforming from flat and glacial to mountainous as you keep traveling. Your eventual objective: with the help of an AI companion, collect the crystal shards needed to repower your ship, and learn the significance of ocean conservation in preserving our own planet back home. Clark is currently utilizing the HTC Vive to create a VR-ready version of the game, as well. “The first time I teleported around in the game, I was struck by how real it felt, and it triggered all kinds of emotions and thoughts.” Virgo’s label, The Revera Corporation, doubles as a game development studio; Water Planet is the first in an upcoming series of immersive audiovisual experiences.
The open-world format in both versions of the game means you can take your time and, given the preternatural quality of Water Planet and of Virgo herself, you might just want to traverse the landscape, no objectives necessary. “Think of it as an interactive music video,” says Clark, “a visceral experience that doesn’t require strategy or technical skill.”