Everything Is Scary

Be responsible, contemplate the void.

Nevermind revisited

When I first reviewed Nevermind from Flying Mollusk Studios, I mentioned how I am a bitter, jaded little man, and not given - much - to being startled and scared.  The first three scenarios of the game did little to alarm me, which wasn't in of itself the worst issue I've seen in the genre, and by and large it was still an enjoyable experience.  The core idea of going inside people's minds is relatively well-worn by this point (with games like Psychonauts) but is given a fresh face with the driving motivation of therapy.  Nevermind promises the experience of helping overcome a character's fears as you overcome your own.

I'm pleased to report that with the addition of two new scenarios, Nevermind is really digging down into the promise of its premise, smartly doing away with traditional horror game tropes in favour of examining the everyday, human fears that deeply affect our lives. 

**NOTE:  FULL SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW THIS POINT** 

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Small Stakes in BLAMELESS

I have a lot of respect for independent game artists who are making games out of a sense of love of the genre.  Vaclav Hudec. the creator of Blameless, is one of these people.  His website biography, as stated, marks him as someone I think I'd get along with.  Several of the games he mentions as inspiration - One Late Night, Amnesia, Slender - are games I've talked about on this blog.  Clearly Mr. Hudec is a man of great taste.

But more importantly, what intrigues me about Blameless isn't merely that it has taken some of the right lessons from the aforementioned games, but it adds its own unique twist to the mix, deliberately or accidentally.

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Forget the Brainteasers, GOETIA is a straight-up Braintaunter

If, like me, you grew up on adventure games, you're probably prepared to accept a certain amount of strange logic in your puzzle-playing time.  From Guybrush Threepwood using a Rubber Chicken to cross a zipline, to time-traveling in Day of The Tentacle to change the shape of a statue just so it wouldn't provide a handhold for a crazy lady in a wheelie chair, to pretty much everything in King's Quest, Adventure Games have long taught us that logic is a fluid concept pretty dependent on the mood of the designers.

With Goetia, the struggle is in wrapping your head around the often metaphorical or flatly obscure clues that are your breadcrumbs in a plot which, puzzles aside, is well-woven and told.

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Turn and Face the Fun in UNTURNED

Open World survival games are quirky little beasts.  The frequency with which they get made in the indie world suggests an appetite for them, which in turn suggests that gamers are more than capable of making their own fun, given the right tools and interface.  Yet if we were to look at these games through the lens with which certain "Walking Simulator" type games are scrutinized (is there a fail state?  Is there an objective?  Is there a driving plot?) we might arrive at the conclusion that they're not "games" in the traditional sense.  Unturned, for instance, feels a bit more like a creative tool, a la Minecraft - with zombies.

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The House Abandon

"There is an art to the building up of suspense," pronounces Guildenstern, in his first line from Tom Stoppard's absurdist comedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  It's one of my favourite lines, because suspense is one of those tightrope acts that so often elude game makers and storytellers these days.  The nature of narrative arcs often renders a lot of suspense moot:  we know that the protagonist isn't going to die, we know that there is some kind of struggle, we know that there will be obstacles, etc. etc. etc.

But there are ways to play on those expectations, to undermine the expected and to arrive at a new, chilling suspense.  The House Abandon, from No Code Games, is a brilliant example of this.

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Darkness follows.