Mu Cartographer: Secrets in the lost city I-Machine

Scientific popularizer Neil deGrasse Tyson does not believe none of the alien abduction stories told so far. And it”s not that I doubt the word of the affected assumptions or that I firmly believe that there is no intelligent life on any planet beyond the solar system. The astrophysicist simply points out that science does not fit. That the procedures described for the explorations and the machines used for the processes are scandalously similar to those used by humans. That the clean, over-lit, aseptic rooms described by those affected are more like a traditional operating room than a space designed and set up in another galaxy to serve beings who are not like us. deGrasse Tyson is very clear, if there is something that can convince him that an abduction has really happened is an ashtray. A practical and expendable piece for them but for us, due to its chemical composition or design, totally fascinating. Something that speaks, not of the human experience but of the daily life of the visitors. An object created to be used only by them.

In Cita con Rama, one of the best novels in classic science fiction, the great mystery that flies over reading is the architecture in triads of the huge deserted ship that the protagonist must explore. Arthur C. Clarke”s answer to the question that he himself asks is satisfactory for its simplicity and stands out for its rational character. The great ship Rama has been created by beings biologically different from us and that biology permeates their way of seeing the world and transforming it in the same way that it affects ours. Both in tillage tools and the most primitive weapons as in large computers and smartphones today everything revolves around us. From design, based on the way we hold objects and operate them with our hands, to configuration, which is planned to match the data provided by our senses. But if a simple watch was perhaps incomprehensible to an alien, its machines might not speak in terms understandable to us. But there is nothing that logic cannot overcome. At least that is the idea that Mu Cartographer presents us, an interesting challenge with an experimental approach.

Mu Cartographer is not a puzzle game, it is a puzzle in itself that we must decipher if we want to start playing. Its first obstacle is the interface, full of buttons, graphics and what appear to be sensors that invite us to explore a mysterious world and very different from ours. But at first glance nothing seems to make sense. The color palettes do not seem to discriminate by temperature, altitude, pressure or some other known variable, in the same way that the supposed compass seems to organize itself in circular sections and take more than three elements to fix coordinates. And although at the end of our adventure it is likely that we still do not know what specific function each of the elements that make up the machine has, it is extremely satisfying to learn how to use them.

But once we have learned the search process (and understood what we really have to search for), Mu Cartographer reinvents himself to amaze us once again. The puzzle is not complicated but it becomes obsessive and meticulous. Also quite dangerous. Because by now we already know some secrets. We have already met the explorers.

II-The explorers

Percy Fawcett lived more than 100 years ago but his exploits are more present today than ever. A lieutenant colonel in the British Army and a topographer by training, Fawcett grew fascinated by the stories of explorers he frequently heard at the Royal Geographical Society, an institution of which his father was a leading member. Between 1906 and 1924, Fawcett made seven expeditions in South America, among which the one he used to map the jungle between the border of Brazil and Bolivia stands out. However, Fawcett ended up losing his mind. Obsessed with the existence of a secret city that he called ”Z”, and which according to a Portuguese manuscript – 512 – was made up of remnants of an already lost Atlantis civilization, he launched an unauthorized expedition from which he ended up not return. Fawcett, Her oldest son and a family friend went into the jungle alone on May 29, 1925, and there they lost track. His fate is a mystery that many have tried to clear up. And its history, little by little, has become a legend.

Percy Fawcett”s latest expedition has been covered in many documentaries and inspired great fictional stories. Arthur Conan Doyle has admitted that his novel The Lost World is inspired by the events of Fawcett”s life and that his Professor Challenger is partially based on the explorer himself. Theories of what could happen to the experienced scientist have been published in both traditional newspapers and scientific journals and in publications of a paranormal nature, since those who accuse an accident or murder as a reason for the disappearance also include those who point to an intervention alien or a voluntary integration into the hidden Atlantis society. It was all these rumors and possibilities that led the renowned journalist David Grann to the Amazon at the hands of the New York Times. Grann”s investigations, which focus on the oral tradition of the Kalapalo tribe (the last to see the explorer and his companions alive), The Lost City of Z, a text that James Gray would use as the basis for his eponymous film released in 2016. It is difficult to know if Titouan Millet, the creator of Mu Cartographer, came to be inspired by Gray”s film or fell in love with Grann”s text. What we can affirm is that the triad of works is complemented. And that Fawcett”s story can be experienced very differently depending on the medium that tells it.

While Grann”s essay is conspicuous for its objectivity and direct style and Gray”s film takes a somewhat more epic approach to the figure of Fawcett, Mu Cartographer chooses to tell the same story getting us to obsess over that hidden world as much as he does. Here the facts are in the background – perhaps we could even go through something the most explicit part of the story – the motivation being important. Like Fawcett, we are warned that investigating something beyond our comprehension can have negative and uncontrollable effects, but, like him, we cannot stop moving forward. The narrative in MU Cartographer is secondary during play time but essential to contextualize everything we have experienced and understand the origin of the work. It”s also an effective way to give depth to what just looks like a puzzle. A system to transform a toy into a real journey. 

III-The journey

Mu Cartographer is an absorbing game that does not need an addictive design to keep us glued to the screen looking for secrets behind each pixel. A title that knows that the key to exploration and science lies in wonder and does not hesitate to amaze us at every opportunity. Playing Mu Cartographer is like a journey that we do not know how or when it will end. A purely experimental experience that uses our curiosity to make us empathize with the man who this same quality ended up leading to perdition. But unlike Fawcett”s journey we can always return from the multicolored universe and impossible constructions. At least that”s what I want to believe. Trust that it is possible to recover from such a strange experience. That we have finally found our way back from the lost city.

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