How’s Anna? – Deadly Premonition Origins

The following is not so much a review as a picking apart because it’s a game that left me with a lot of questions. It includes spoilers though I’ve tried to keep details to a minimum.

Also, content warning at the very end for a flashing image.

I think I was about 11 when it happened. It was late one night, I was alone in my room, struggling to sleep, so I carefully turned on my TV and put the volume down to the lowest I could still manage to hear it at. There were only 4 channels in the UK at the time so not a huge selection. I distinctly remember turning to one channel and seeing a man in blue pajamas, lying in bed, with two police officers standing around him, looking concerned.

The blue-clad man stood up and went to the bathroom, wasted a lot of toothpaste and then slammed his head into the bathroom mirror, which cracked. There was some blood on the glass, and looking back at the giggling man with a head injury, was a reflection not his own. Instead it was a scruffy looking and sinister older man.

Something about this scene really unsettled me and I decided that was quite enough television. However, I’d be sleeping with the lights on that night… if I slept at all.

That was the final scene of the final episode of Twin Peaks season 2, and it really stayed with me. When I was older, I bought a (fairly) complete VHS box set of the show and watched it over and over, especially any episodes in the red room, or where things were most strange. Twin Peaks did creeping, weird, discomfort, set in a seemingly simple and mundane setting in a way I was deeply drawn to.

Over the last nine years, I’ve kept hearing the name Deadly Premonition over and over. It’s always come up as “very you, Jane”.

Some time ago, I purchased it on Steam, but then completely forgot about it (Probably because I saw something shiny and got distracted). When I found it again I spent most of two days trying to get the damn thing to work, without success and so it was forgotten, and I was fairly sure then that I’d never get to play it.

However, a recent Nintendo Direct showed that not only was it getting a sequel, but that it was being re-released on Switch as Deadly Premonition Origins. So finally, I’ve got the chance to play. It’s safe to say, that the Switch version can definitely be completed without the game breaking crashes of the old PC version.

Now DP has been released on consoles, then re-released as a directors cut and now this. As such, I think it’s reasonable to assume that however it is now, is how it is “supposed” to be. Especially as this release has taken some of those things back out from the Directors Cut (apparently the director had a change of heart on some of the changes). At this point, everything can be considered intentional (and yes, I would say the same about Skyrim and it’s curious glitches. If that wasn’t their artistic vision, they’d have fixed it by now).

Francis York Morgan (call him York, everybody does) is an FBI detective with a number of dangerous habits. He smokes cigarettes like he’s chewing a lollipop, while on the phone, while using his laptop, while driving at high speed, at night, in heavy rain. Also he eats smoked salmon he finds in lockers in abandoned lumber mills. He is – to put it simply – a reckless dickhead.

Understandably, the game begins with York flipping his car, and finding himself in the woods, somehow alive (although, who knows, this game could all be a Silent Hill, moment of death hallucination), while his car starts to slowly burn. Suddenly, theres all these people, looking dead, broken. They bend over backwards lumbering and flickering towards him like ghosts from a Japanese horror film. Moving in a way that I find deeply and wonderfully unsettling.

In some ways, it’s fitting that the game opens with York flipping the car, because the driving in this game is some of the most frustrating I’ve ever encountered. Steering is so sensitive that the first few times I was charged with driving a vehicle myself, I was weaving side to side and into trees like I was also smoking, making a call and using my laptop. Again, I have to believe that this was deliberate, as they definitely could have dialed it down by now if they wanted. This then is York being an appalling driver and a danger to himself and others (run sheriff, run deputy, run while you still can! Don’t dare to get in this car with York, he’s a fucking liablity).

To look at, you’d be forgiven for thinking Deadly Premonition was late PS2/Dreamcast era game, but it came out the same year as Fallout: New Vegas and Mass Effect 2 so there’s really no reason it had to look like this. The character models are ok, but goodness, the first time you see York smile, you’ll be sleeping with the lights on.

DP has some quite interesting little management aspects. If you don’t change and wash your clothes, they’ll become increasingly creased and dirty. If you don’t shave, you’ll start to grow a beard. York also needs to eat, sleep, keep his pulse within a reasonable window. It’s like the game is trying to be part life sim, part police procedural, part people management, and drunk driving simulator.

Everything about the sound in this game is too dramatic. All sorts of mundane actions or events – even entering the pause menu- causes dramatic, discordant, instrumental hits, that somehow still disquieted me hours into the game.

Then there’s the music, and this is where a good few minutes of hysterical laughter first started. Very near the beginning of the game, there’s a scene where York has breakfast with the hotel owner. They sit at opposite ends of a long banquet table, in the otherwise empty hotel restraunt. Each time York asks a new question a loud, jaunty piece of music starts. It’s out of place with the scene, and almost completely drowns out the dialogue. I’m convinced this is deliberate, because after nearly a decade I can’t believe that they wouldn’t have corrected the default audio balance if it wasn’t intentional.

Consequently I ask myself: why is this the case? Why did SWERY want to drown out the conversation? My only conclusion so far is that York places so little value in it that he’s half in his mind just thinking of a jaunty tune. This would sit with the fact he’s a massive douchecanoe (the Director’s Cut, did change the sound balance in this scene and it was nowhere near as hilarious. Besides, they didn’t re-release the DC, they released this).

It’s not just the music that’s bizarre, there’s a scene at one point where the tension is high, you’re running all over town on foot, desperate to get to your goal, but the game insists on stopping every hundred yards to chat about something unrelated or just cutting to another scene entirely. Once again, the ridiculousness of this moment had me laughing my arse off.

There’s also the question of York’s state of mind (or possibly state within the

multiverse). York frequently puts fingers to the side of his head and speaks to someone named Zach. He’s not wearing an earpiece, so the question of who he’s actually talking to remains a mystery. One of the menus describes Zach as York’s other personality, so the answer could be as simple as that. But… then there’s the way that York will ask a Zach a question and you, the player, will have to answer, using on-screen prompts. Have I been designated Zach for the purpose of the game? (more on this later.)

I’m reminded of how Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks would talk to his dictaphone, to the possibly non-existent (until Twin Peaks The Return, 26 years after the last episode was shown) Diane.

It’s not just Zach though, there’s also the matter of the otherworldly sections, where strange, red weeds block doors; where odd red mist blocks paths or objects; and where strange beings emerge from black marks on the walls and floor to assault you.

Early on, there’s a scene were York goes to the hospital to recover a coroner’s report. The path down is simple, a brief, simple word puzzle and then following a marker downstairs and into the morgue. Having annoyed the local sheriff, the deputy, and the coroner by being an arrogant jackass, York states he’s going for a smoke.

However, the moment he steps into the corridor, the world is changed again. It’s sinister, as the woods had been. There’s that red weed again. There’s those black marks. There’s the strangely moving assailants, juddering and twisting to attack him (frankly I think this is deserved). Having worked his way back upstairs – by finding key cards and getting past enemies – and into the hospital lobby, all is suddenly normal again. This lobby which was full of red weeds and shambling monsters which I was spraying with bullets is back to normal.

This is a mechanic that repeats throughout the game and leads me to question, is York seeing things, or slipping between realities, like someone trapped in Silent Hill? Truth be told, there’s a lot about the enemy movement and the way they emerge from the dark patches on the walls that makes me think of Silent Hills 2 and 4 (and I’m so here for that, because those are two of my favourite horror games).

A scene at the art gallery sees a York and three police officers trying to find a way in as the front door is locked. It’s late at night and raining heavily and the clouds are doing that purple thing they do when he enters the other worldly sections. The officers wander around the front of the building but only York will head around the sides. Here there are endlessly respawning enemies which will attack you. However, they never come near the police and don’t go to the front of the building. So are they real, hallucinations, or do they exist in a place outside Greenvale, outside the reality usually perceived here?

For an FBI agent, York doesn’t mess around when it comes to weaponry. You start the game your standard issue 9mm pistol and a knife. Soon enough he’ll locate the standard issue survival horror steel pipe which will grant you a little more room.

While the pistol thankfully comes with unlimited ammo, the melee weapons break after a few uses (meaning that you don’t want to get into a fight with more than one enemy unless your weapon has decent health, otherwise you’ll likely get attacked in the few seconds it takes York to swap to a fresh weapon.

As you move through the game, you’ll start to find more useful weapons like the assalt rifle and shotgun. While I was initially cautious about using my big guns in favour of my trusty pistol, I found that as long as I wasn’t just spraying bullets everywhere like a penis owner meat spin pissising in a public toilet, I was getting sufficient drops from downed enemies to keep myself in shooty things.

The game allows you to auto target an enemy by pressing a shoulder button. This is reasonably effective and if you nudge the stick slightly upwards, you’re usually good for a headshot.

There is one enemy however which cannot be fought in the usual manner. That being the dreaded Raincoat Killer. Clad in a long red raincoat, their features as indiscernible as a nazgul save for a pair of glowing eyes. When they appear, it’s usually a sign you’re going to have to engage with some QTE nonsense.

Maybe it’s just me as someone who plays on a lot of different systems and has coordination issues, but I find the amount of time you get to hit the buttons isn’t really long enough to read, process, and react. One section in particular had me enter a room, get attacked, fail the QTE, restart, and pass the first event, only to miss a second prompt and have to start again, this happened almost every time of the 5 or so parts to this section. Every attempt getting me a little further, but becoming less dramatic tension and more needless frustration. This may be a Switch issue, as I find it much easier to remember the positions of colours and shapes that just the letters alone.

If you’re trans and reading this, you’ve probably had someone warn you about an aspect of this game. I too was warned before I started (and several times thereafter by concerned friends) that there is a gender non-conforming character in this and they’re not well handled (I’m not sure if we’d call them trans as we don’t get much chance to speak to them or find out what their deal is. Only that, like the murder victims, they’re wearing that long red dress and heels).

I knew it was coming and still I felt very squicked out when the person who could bake beautifully, acts bashfully, and is seen skipping around in a childlike fashion early on in the game, is found to have a large collection of makeup and a wig at their apartment.

While I was impressed that this reveal wasn’t played for laughs and the voice actor didn’t just go for a ridiculous falsetto for the character, it does still fall into that trope of “unhinged, violent trans person” that we’ve come to know and hate.

It’s around this part of the game that you get a chance to play as someone other than York (because he’s tied to a chair with a blindfold on). Upon entering a building, as this other character, you’re faced with those red vines and the twisted assailants. Which means, they’re real(?) This completely confused me as everything so far seemed to suggest it was just a York thing.

Right near the end, there is some additional information about Zach, but you’re very much left to decide for yourself what this actually means. Whether they’re a repressed part of the characters’s personality, a splinter caused during childhood trauma or a parallel being who came to save them. I’m leaning towards the possibility of some parallel being since the primary antagonist mentions Zach being in the White Room

Deadly Premonition feels so much like it wants to be an homage to Twin Peaks. An FBI agent is called to investigate the curious death of a young, local woman; it’s set in Washington state; the diner could not be more like the RR (right down to the aggy husband of the owner); the bar on the edge of town is reminiscent of the Roadhouse; Sigorny is like a lively version of the Log Lady; York is very into his coffee; he gets accurate information from unusual, seemingly random sources; the waterfall up by Harry’s mansion look very much look very much like those seen in the opening shots of Twin Peaks’ opening credits; Anna’s mother falls apart in a very odd way following her daughter’s death (is Anna Graham a reference to Annie being played by Heather Graham?); there’s versions of the Black and White Lodges in the form of the Red and White Rooms, where spirits of the dead can commune with the living and the occupants of this space can take the forms of those still living. It’s like a love letter to the show and I’m so here for that.

There are parts of this game I loved and others I found utterly frustrating or awful. I’ve played objectively bad games before (check out my review for Overgrowth for example) and put them down without actually finishing due to awful controls or wonky plots. I didn’t do that here, and not because I was hooked on an addictive gameplay loop, but because I was genuinely engaged with the story, the side quests, and the world(s?) in which the game takes place. I’m left with a desire to pick over the story and ponder over its world after I’ve finished playing and I want to play the sequel to explore more of this world.

That said, there are parts of the game that I would ordinarily award it a flat zero score, and I can’t ignore that.

Pros:

  • A really interesting and deep story
  • Scenes so bizarre you’ll be forced to laugh
  • Fascinating world full of curious characters

Cons:

  • Some Skyrim level glitches (floating fires, people flying along next to the car they’re driving, clipping through the odd door/floor)
  • Just horrible driving mechanics, especially in any of the police vehicles
  • Poor handling of a trans character (though not nearly as bad a some)

DPO Score.gif

Deadly Premonition Origins’ score exists within the other world.

Spooky Action At A Distance – Man Of Medan

I used to watch a lot of horror films, not sure what happened, perhaps I just caught a lot of really bad ones in a row. Regardless, I’ve not had time for horror much of late. Gore doesn’t really do it for me. I’m not averse to it, I just don’t think that it makes a movie better. I like a creeping sense of dread. The idea that this horrifying thing is becoming more than 90 minutes in the dark with popcorn. Something that gets into your mind and gives you a moment’s pause in the dark, when you’re alone.

Some time early this year I finally got a chance to play Until Dawn with my fiancée. We shared time on the controller and made any decisions, that didn’t require split second timing, between us. It was a nice couple of evenings sharing moments of panic through quick time events, moments of surprise, and the all important moments of quiet in between, to build the tension. This was good horror.

Around the same time, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man Of Medan was announced from the same studio as Until Dawn. The plan was to take all the photorealistic character styling, decision making, quick time events, and exploration of the original game and create an anthology series of slightly shorter stories that can be played solo or with others in a number of different ways.

First up, there’s standard solo play. See all the things, from your currently controlled character’s perspective, explore, decide, try to keep everyone alive while you unravel the mystery of the decaying military vessel where most of the game takes place.

Next there’s couch co-op. Choose your number of players, and which characters each person will play as. As you move through the story you’ll get messages between scenes telling you who should be on the controller for the next section. Where as in Until Dawn, we made pretty much all decisions relating to the protagonists together, here we played our own characters, to our own tastes. Something very much encouraged by having the characters divided among us.

Lastly, there’s online co-op, and here’s where things change in a really interesting way.

There are sections of the game which happen simultaneously. As such, one player can be talking to another character in one area, while another person is exploring another section of the ship. Consequently you can have a moment very near the beginning of the game where two groups of characters are having entirely different stories told.

Those below the waves are finding interesting artifacts and trying to understand how a plane came down. Meanwhile above, a group of pirates are harassing those on the boat, eventually leading to an explosion, which the others see from underwater. This, in turn leading to WTF moments from the divers, which the characters can decide to discuss, or not. It’s up to the players to decide if they’ll share that information with each other or keep all explanation within the game itself. There’s a few other moments where this is used really well, but I won’t spoil you on it. Suffice to say that playing solo or in movie night (couch co-op) mode, the game takes around 5 hours to complete. Whereas online co-op is closer to 3 because of the overlapping sections.

The basic plot of the game sees two brothers, Alex (kind of a jock) and Bradley (an adorable, shy, nerdy type) preparing to take Julia (whom Alex is dating and seems like the type to ask to speak to your manager), and her brother Conrad (goofy alcoholic rich boy who seems like a total liability) out for some diving around a crashed plane they have located. This is a previously unexplored wreck and there’s excitement about what they’ll find, and in what condition. The last member of our merry band is Fliss, the boat captain (absolute badass, if a little shady) who’ll be taking them out on the ocean.

Things start off pretty gently through a flashback featuring a couple of naval soldiers on shore leave. The game uses this time to gently introduce the controls and game mechanics in a no-stakes environment. Flash forward then, to the present and we see our main cast loading their boat up for the proposed dive. Before long though, it’s all diving to the crashed plane, hearing rumors of lost gold, the aforementioned pirates showing up and dragging everyone off to and older and decaying, but still familiar ship. All aboard is very quiet and our protagonists are in over their heads. And that… is all I’m saying. You’ll have to play it for yourself if you want plot. Suffice to say, I enjoyed it a lot, on multiple playthroughs.

Just like Until Dawn, characters can die and this will very much change how the remaining characters interact and what options they have going forward. This gives the game a lot of replayability. Do you want a horror film with a lone survivor of the group? Do you want to try and save everyone? Maybe “accidently” fail a few quick time events to off that one character you don’t like? The options are all there.

The sound design and music is spot on. With great effects and cues that are well used, to enrich the experience. Graphically, the game is on par with Until Dawn. Which is to say, beautifully rendered and animated character with really uncanny teeth (why do all of these games do that?). The lighting is great and the locations are wonderfully grimey in just the right way. That said, I did experience some minor slow down in a few areas and a couple of momentary glitches, though this may be patched by the time of release.

One thing I was really happy to see was the number of accessibility options. I have a number of sensory processing issues which can make a game like this frustratingly difficult at best and unplayable at worst. First up, you have the ability to remove time limits from QTE button prompts. As long as you hit the correct button, you won’t fail. Additionally, there’s the option to replace button mashing sections with just holding the button down. Next up, there’s options to change how subtitles appear. Do you want the subtitles on a background rather than just overlayed straight onto the action? Do you want to change the colours for a more manageable contrast? Those options are here for you. Lastly, there’s the sidebar, which will put text from the various documents you find lying around into a more legible format, in a pop-up sidebar. These are all great considerations that I hope to see making their way to other games of this type in future.

The Dark Pictures Anthology has the potential to be to the interactive horror genre, what Telltale Games were to, well, all the many many genres things they worked on (though hopefully, it won’t end up collapsing like an incorrectly assembled deck chair as TTG did).

Pros:

  • Stunning graphics and sound design
  • Lots of replayability
  • Great story to unravel

Cons:

  • Some minor slow down in a couple of places
  • Pirates are mean
  • I’m struggling to come up with my usual 3 of these.

Final Score: 9/10

Andrew Ryan Animations

On receiving a letter from ex-colleague, Joey Drew, you head to the old animation workshop to find out what’s new. That’s all you need to get started, you play game now.

You, as Henry, arrive at the animation studio to find it seemingly deserted. The whole building is a sepia tone cartoon from the earliest days of animation. Outlines and minimal shading in black. A few off-yellow lights serve to draw attention here and there. Holes in walls are boarded up, doors too.

Standees of the studio mascot, Bendy the devil, are everywhere. Sometimes even peering out from around corners, before disappearing. Strange black pipes run through most rooms, occasionally dripping ink on the floor. The walls are plastered with artist notes near their drawing boards. Posters show some of the studio’s titles, introducing Bendy, Boris the wolf, and later, Alice Angel (of course, of course you make classic style cartoons about demons, angels and wolves. Of course it’s about going to hell in a handbasket, putting out the hell fires, and darling devils. That seems like jolly good, wholesome entertainment).

The game’s art style works really well. Bendy is about, and in, a classic cartoon. The only problem with making the whole world two colours is that it can be a bit difficult to navigate. As things move on, you will start to see a few areas over again, and this definitely helps you learn the layout, but for someone like me, who struggles with orientation in games, it’s very difficult to navigate some parts. Additionally, you can miss key items because you didn’t directly move your crosshair over them, to make them light up (I’m looking at you axe that I missed for 5 minutes in that boss area. Well, I’m clearly not, because I didn’t spot the damn thing for far too long, but you get the point).

You’ll start out by trying to get through doors, gather items to activate the titular ink machine, and solve basic puzzles to unlock the next area. All this under the watchful eyes of Bendy cutouts, Bendy plushes, Bendy character sheets on drawing boards, Bendy posters, Bendy Statues. Bendy is everywhere, always watching you. Their fixed grin more menacing than jolly or friendly.

Once the machine is active, the dripping ink becomes more prevalent and more… lively. Black creatures born of the ink rise up and swing for you. Their oily bodies somehow fitting with the rest of the art style, but their rendering making them look more realistic than Bendy’s more illustrated style.

Getting deeper into the game, you’ll start to encounter, what I refer to as, the “real” Bendy and Alice. These are inky horrors, parodies of their cartoon forms. These twisted, monstrous beings are of the ink itself, more like the oily ink monsters than their artist’s original designs.

At first the story is only fed to you through Bioshock-esque audio diaries. The various employees tell of their grievances, the story slowly being teased out. Here I will mention a problem. These audio recordings are equalized to sound like they’re being played from fairly poor quality tape recordings. This means that it can be difficult to make out what their saying. They are accompanied by transcriptions on one side of the screen, but the text is so small you’ll need to be super close to read it. On a smaller screen, it would be impossible.

As you move on you will meet Atlus Alice Angel. Should you agree to their requests, you’ll end up on a series of (maybe one too many) fetch quests around the building as they explain some of their woes. This does a lot to flesh out Alice’s story and give some hints about the nature of the ink itself, but larger mysteries remain.

Should you die at any point, you’ll find yourself in a weird swirling tunnel which reminds me of Silent Hill 4’s bathroom hole. Once you’ve crawled out of it, you’ll respawn at the nearest Bendy statue, which is very reminiscent of Bioshock (I know, everything’s been done before. I’m not criticising that, the game’s brought all these things together in its own way very nicely *pats game on head*).

Overall, the mood is really creepy, the world is interesting and keeps you wanting to know what’s happening and where it will lead, the sound design is very good and atmospheric (though sometimes you can hear radios through walls, like you’re right next to them), and the character designs are great. I’d say it’s definitely time and money well spent, if survival horror a la 1920’s animation is your thing.

Pros:

  • Good art style
  • Wonderfully creepy
  • Great character design

Cons:

  • Transcripts of audio logs are hard to read on smaller screens (especially in handheld)
  • Combat can be frustrating with certain weapons
  • Loading times are a little long

Overall Score: 7/10

Bendy and the Ink Machine is out now on Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC

Do You Want Anything From The Shop?

I went on a bit of a Kickstarter spree in the nine months from September last year. I backed a bunch of boardgames. So far, they’ve all come through and been pretty darn good. Last week I got the latest one delivered. The small but mighty, Tiny Epic Zombies.

The game comes in a box not much bigger than the average novel, but contains a huge amount of stuff. Firstly, there’s the nine mall cards. The eight stores are laid out at random around a central courtyard. Once the board is laid out, you can move on to picking the three objectives for the game from the 9 each available for co-operative or competitive modes. Between the randomised nature of the stores and the variety of objectives, there’s a lot of replayablity with this game.


Each of the objectives will include their own setup instructions with extra tokens being placed out, or markers placed on the objectives themselves, to monitor progress. Objectives could be anything from tracking down the true source of the zombie outbreak to building a weapon and ammo cache by scavenging the mall stores.

There’s options to play cooperatively with 1-4 players against an AI zombie force, or else 2-4 players can go up against a human controlled enemy.

Each player is dealt 3 characters and picks one to represent them in the world. Different characters having their own unique skills which offer an advantage against the horde.

A zombie is selected or chooses who they’ll play as. These zombies can be found on the back of the character cards and are the decomposing versions of those heroes. For the AI versions, only the passive skills are used. However, for a human controlled horde, there are a range of increasingly powerful skills available.


Gameplay consists of players moving three spaces through the mall and carrying out any number of actions as they do so. This could involve performing melee attacks on zombies in the same room, ranged attacks on zombies in adjacent rooms, collecting items from stores – once they’ve been cleared out, etc.

At the end of each turn, players perform a search by turning over their scavenge card. If the icon on the card matches the store, this will give the zombies an advantage. Once revealed, these scavenged items can be collected by the next player to visit the store, after it’s clear.

For the zombie player, they’re trying to attack the central court of the mall, break down the barricades and kill any survivors they find there. They can also kill the player characters, which will deplete the survivor count from the central courtyard.

The health and ammo mechanic in this game is unlike anything I’ve encountered before. Basically you start in good health and with 9 bullets for your ranged weapon. Ranged attacks (and some of the player character abilities) will deplete ammo. Zombie player abilities and poor melee attacks by the players can cause them to receive wounds. However, the health and ammo meter are on the same track. Should the two meet, or overtake each other, that player is dead. Either due to their wounds or because they were too badly equipped to survive. If there are survivors left in the courtyard, that player can take another player card and start again. Their old character dropping all their weapons and items in the store they’re standing for anyone else to collect.

One of the first things that really drew me to the game on Kickstarter was the ITEMeeple. These are fairly standard shaped meeple – maybe a little larger than average – but with little holes at their hands. One of the unique things about this game is that the weapons you scavenge around the mall can be equipped to your meeple. Adorable knives, swords, Uzis, mp5s, etc can be attached to your avatar as you wander around the mall. There’s also the vehicles that can be used. Either a motorcycle or a police car. You really haven’t lived until you’re riding a cute little motorcycle through a mall while brandishing a dinky chainsaw and rocket launcher.

Pros:

  • Lots of replayablity
  • Great artwork
  • Adorable game pieces

Cons:

  • Can be a lot to take in the first time
  • Good chance you may lose a zombie or two due to size
  • If you’ve got the Deluxe Edition, you may have to deal with the dog dying.

Overall: 8/10

Alone In The Dark & Slightly Poorer

Three and a half years ago, I chucked $5 at an interesting little project on Indiegogo. It was an augmented reality game for mobile called Night Terrors and claimed to be “an ultra immersive gaming experience that transforms your environment into a terrifying hellscape”. Fucking. Sold.

There were updates as the campaign went on, but it came to an end, having made only about ¾ of it’s target. A a couple more email updates came thereafter, but then things really slowed down. I heard rumours that the game had come out, in some manner for iOS, but the promised Android version was still nowhere to be seen. Backers were told to wait, and as soon as the Android version happened, we’d get our copies. However, on Monday night I got an email telling me that Night Terrors: Bloody Mary was being released (woo?). This was followed a day later by a request for information. Telling me that if I still had that email address, I should should them a message and get a code for NT:BM. This I duly did and tonight my code arrived.

The first thing that struck me was that the game’s icon is a default Unity icon with the text “BMH-test”. I was now preparing to be more disappointed that if the game hadn’t even shown up, if they’d just taken the money and run. It wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve crowd funded and lost out on.

I remained unsurprised as the usual array of checkboxes for permissions that games are want to have, popped up on screen, before the game presented me with instructions to turn off my lights – check, put in my earbuds – check, and click to sign a long ass waiver to say that the dev isn’t responsible if I fall over my headphone lead while wandering around my house in the dark – check, I guess.

The camera light flicked on and the screen showed my living room with some video flicker effects over the top and a timer in one corner. Oh the horror. Be still my racing heart. As I wandered around, the light periodically flickered off, odd noises came out of the speaker, and occasionally, the screen would just go black and some video would play. The first sighting was someone cutting up a body on a table and eating bits of it. I wouldn’t call this AR though, despite the fact that angling my phone around could show it mostly hanging in one area. The room wasn’t showing as a background, just this cheesy video.

Once that faded I wandered to the hall and lost light again, lots of weird sound and then a phone ringing sound and a screen showing an incoming call. Pushing answer on screen did nothing, as far as I could tell so the whole point of putting this on a phone and in my hand felt pointless and gimmicky.

The whole dreary experience took about 15 minutes, and by the end I was just walking up and down the hall waiting for whatever happened next. At one point I was told to look on the floor for something, which wasn’t there, but did eventually show up. At which point it just followed me around the house, until that scene had played out.

I wouldn’t call this augmented reality. Just a badly implemented gimmick. Considering that the project I helped crowdfund had promised environment mapping, meaning that the scares would be appearing in your play area. Ghostly figures appearing in doorways, etc. All in the hopes of creating a “breathtakingly scary experience”. Sadly, that’s not what I got when I walked into my bathroom, the light went out and I watched a video of a person in period costume and a mask sitting in a puddle (of blood?) on the floor, while someone else scurried past in a totally black space. At least in Pokémon Go makes Pikachu stand on my couch sometimes.

The acting is cheesy, the graphics are ok at best, the sound design is fair. Nothing about this game should make you want to spend just under £3 for this on Google Play

Pros:

  • Short
  • Over Quickly
  • Good costumes

Cons:

  • Not worth the money
  • Cheesy acting
  • Not nearly as AR as it claims to be.

Overall: 2/10

Night Terrors: Bloody Mary is out now on Android & iOS.

E3 2018 Hype Train

Choo choo. All aboard the hype train.

It’s nearly time for E3. So let’s have a look at all the awesome things that we can get overly excited about, and start getting our pre-orders in for this stuff.

Ringo Starr [narrating]: “Oh no, there’s been a terrible accident. The hype train’s derailed and smashed into the Sodor nuclear power plant.”

Janeiac: That doesn’t seem good Ringo. Should we call someone?

RS: It’s too late Janey. Look there.

Kevan Brighting [narrating]: Ringo was right. As Janeiac looked, she saw Sir Topam Hatt’s face start to blister and melt off as he screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed. And then his eyes melted too.

KB: It was absolutely horrific. Probably most horrifying thing she’d ever seen, and she’d once walked in on her mother having sex with a hairy pot dealer when she was 12. Sometimes she still had a memory of that monumentally hairy set of bouncing buttocks. It was not a visual memory, but was still scarred into her mind.

KB: Janeiac wondered if this was perhaps more tasteless advertising from the people that brought you the dismembered corpse that came with Dead Island. She felt deep in the very core of her being that somehow, all of this must have something to do with the E3 article that she’d planned to write.

Richard Ridings [narrating]: It is pay day!

J: What are you doing here?

RR: There are unspeakable horrors unfurling. It seemed appropriate. Also, I had to get out of that dungeon, the yoghurt was starting to go off and it smelled worse than a bile demon’s foreskin after a week of humping a handful of its own faeces.

RS: I think we’re losing track of this whole E3 thing.

Morgan Freeman [narrating]: They were, in fact, losing track of the whole E3 thing. People were supposed to be getting excited about the latest electrical wizardry, but sadly, everyone was too distracted by the fact that, Thomas was on fire, nuclear waste was turning biological matter to cancerous soup, and Richard Ridings had forced me to think about a bile demon’s foreskin.

RS: At that moment, Spencer pulled up and expressed his disappointment in the assembled narrators.

RR: A tory has entered your dungeon!

Spencer: I’m very disappointed in all of you assembled narrators.

J: Oh, do fornicate off, you David Cameron looking twunt.

RS: Spencer had to admit that he did rather look like David Cameron. Right up until the meteor fell from the sky and turned him into sheet metal.

All: [4.27 minutes of riotous laughing]

MF: Such laughter in the face of a world falling to pieces was a much needed tonic. Everything had gotten rather dark of late in the world and laughter was really all anyone had left in the face of utter unpleasantness.

Edward Norton [narrating]: I never felt so alive as when the earth began to spew boiling lava that pushed up the train tracks, causing Gordon and Percy to go flying at high speed into the air. The whole world was tearing itself apart and I couldn’t help but notice Reggie Fils-Aimé, sitting on his horde of ill-gotten Amiibo and wrapping gaffer tape around his head like a discount balaclava, while laugh-crying and bleeding from a small graze on his knee, which he got while running too fast with an untied shoe lace.

J: Wait a minute!

RS: Said Janeiac.

J: Shush you.

KB: Ringo had been suitably chastised by Jane…

J: and you

RR: [laughs evilly]

J: [glares at the assembled narrators]

Narrators: [uncomfortable silence and awkward shuffling]

Does anyone have any information about E3?

Andrea Libman [Pinkie Pie voice]: I don’t!

J: Oh, hey Pinkie.

AL: Actually, I’m Andrea Libman.

J: Sorry, it was because you did the voice.

AL: I suppose that’s fair. I do do other voices though, you know.

J: I did know that. You’re a very talented voice actor.

AL: Thanks.

KB: Somewhere in the distance, Annie and Clarabel exploded into a billion splinters, which flew through the air and fell around the duck pond like a rain of needles.

J: So, let’s get this straight. None of us have any information about E3, or any idea about what’s coming.

[silence… apart from the sound of all the fires and screaming and exploding and general awfulness]

J: Right, well, thank you everyone. This has been fascinating but I’m heading home.

AL: Wait, I have a thing!

J: You do?

AL: Pretty sure we’re going to see more of that Yoshi game from Nintendo.

J: That’s a fair guess.

RB: Jane felt an amazing sense of relief at hearing at least one thought on what might be appearing at E3. This was because she kind of liked the idea of writing about games but didn’t really have time to do proper research. Or rather she did, but she seemed to prefer oddly written improvisational pieces to actual journalism.

J: Hey, I’m not against journalism. I just prefer to get hands on before I write about games and stuff.

[distorted voice of Jigsaw]: Hello narrators. I want to play a game.

J: Not right now Jigsaw.

[Billy the puppet dejectedly rides his tricycle away, a single tear running down his cheek]

[Fade to black.]

[closing title card, overlaid with some visual scratches and picture jumping, to imply old timey black and white film]: fine

[Fade out]

[Fade in]

[Title card is on fire]: …this is fine.

So there you have it folks, all the good good E3 news you could want ahead of next week’s big event.

SMR Now On iTunes

*shudder* Ok, I’m not a fan of Apple, or anything they do. However, their devices are errrrvrwrrr. I’ve had a ton of comments asking if PolyArmoury could be on other platforms than Soundcloud and YouTube, so here we are: a many headed beast that enjoys the taste of your soul. jk. It’s a link to our iTunes page.

Yep, there you go the beast has eaten my morals. Enjoy.