In a darkened room, lie back with the headphones on and the tiny shape of a GBA Micro in your hands. Close your eyes to the brightest, most perfectly lovable screen on any handheld ever made, and listen. Soundvoyager! The name alone! That sense of fragile spaceships travelling far away from Earth, leaving behind the familiar landmarks of the solar system, heading into cold adventure in the dark! Soundvoyager! One of the Bit Generation games, Nintendo at its most wonderfully strange, and the only one of the series I have been able to track down. Close your eyes.
Bit Generation was a series of boutique games that featured simple controls in the service of unusual ideas. How unusual? All of Soundvoyager’s mini-games can be played without seeing the screen. Instead, you listen to the noises the game makes – often plinks and beeps, more of Voyager venturing into the unknown – and you use the triggers to move left and right.
Wait, move what left and right? For Soundvoyager, this commonly means you’re moving the sound inside your head. It is a weird feeling. Nudge the controls left and right until – yes! – I believe the sound is absolutely in the middle of my skull. It isn’t, obviously, but Soundvoyager seems to understand that the brain is this huge numb bubble in the middle of our physical experience, a densely writable void onto which we project headaches and worries, and in which some of us – but not all of us – even hear a central voice, a tube station narrator for consciousness. Soundvoyager is using stereo sound to break into this place. A beautiful bit of work. I really do feel like I can use the triggers on a GBA Micro to move a little puck of noise back and forth along a pole that seems to run from ear to ear.