Passage follows the story of a man (and, if you choose, his wife) and his journey through life. The player moves from left to right, advancing time and aging as he moves forward. As the player continues, his character shifts more and more toward the right side of the screen, finally dying when he reaches the far right (which occurs after exactly 5 minutes). The player is able to look for treasure chests as he goes through his journey, but it is not required to finish the game. He is also able to pick up a wife at the beginning of the game, though this is also optional.
Passage is a game made by Jason Rohrer, an independent developer, for a competition called Gamma 256. The aim of the competition was to make a game that takes place in an area no larger than 256 by 256 pixels and can be played in less than 5 minutes.
Jason got the idea for the game after a good friend passed away in his neighborhood, causing him to think a lot about life.
Passage is a game filled with symbols. Here are a few.
When starting the game, there is a lot of space on the right side of the screen and it is very blurry, expressing the idea that the player has his whole life ahead of him, yet he is not sure what his future holds. On the other hand, there is virtually no space to his left, as he hardly has any past to speak of. Toward the end of his life, there is little space to the right of the character, showing that he does not have much left in his future. However, he does have a lot of space behind him, which represents his wealth of memories.
Treasure chests are representative of the risks and rewards in life. The player is able to search for treasure chests, earning 100 points for each one, though most are empty, as many risks in life are. However, chests with rewards are marked with a special pattern which the player will learn as he goes on, representing a man's growing wisdom as he ages. In addition, if the player chooses to pick up a wife in the beginning of the game, he will find himself unable to access certain treasure chests as the width of him and his wife combined will make him too large to access some chests. This shows how being married can limit opportunities. However, having a wife doubles exploration points (which are earned just by walking to the right), representing how having a spouse can make life more enjoyable.
The game takes place over five minutes, and regardless of how you play, always finishes the same way. You may have spent most of the game with your wife, or you may have explored much of the generated world, or you may have achieved an unusually high score, but once your five minutes are up, your character dies and none of your gameplay experience is recorded or saved (there is no high score table, for example).