Release Date: July 26, 2011
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360
Metacrtic Score: 79
How much am I willing to ignore in the name of fun? How much are you? That’s a question that you are going to have to ask yourself if you’re looking to get this game. There is a lot to like here but there is so much that can be seen as mean spirited, sexist and down right disgusting that the story alone can in fact push some players away. For those that choose to stay, you’ll have to face some ridiculously difficult puzzles that seemed almost made to push even more players away. But for those that stay, what you’ll find her is an interesting, unique puzzle game that has some blatant and uncomfortable flaws.
You play as a man child named Vincent Brooks, who is dating a woman named Katherine. She’s a nagging but loving girlfriend who is slowly but surely pushing him to get married. This isn’t something Vincent is exactly pleased with. One night, as he is drinking in a bar, another woman approaches him and he soon finds himself having an affair with her. That girls name? Catherine. While Vincent might not have been excited about the idea of getting married and settling down, this just brings more unwanted stress into his life. But things could be worse right? Vincent could be having nightmares where he is forced to climb up a nearly endless wall of blocks that he has to maneuver in order to get to the top. Oh, wait, he is. Yes, it turns out that there is a cures on the men in the town who are cheating on their girlfriends, causing them to die under mysterious circumstances, and Vincent is caught right in the middle of it.
The game tries to tell a interesting story, and it does deal with some deeper topics that the average video game story; things like infidelity, unwanted/unplanned pregnancy and the strain of long term serous relationships. But really, the part of the story that stuck with me what the games views on both men and women. You see, the game doesn’t seem to think very much of women, but any disagree meant with them instantly makes you worse. I’ll talk more about this in the game play section, but yeah, it’s not very subtle.
With all the ugliness of the story, it is at least good to know that the script and voice work tend to be rather good. In fact, once the incredibly underwhelming twist is revealed, the game kind of makes fun of it. However, when the script does fall flat, it does so in the dumbest way possible. For example, for the game to well, exist, Vincent has to be cheating on his girlfriend, but there’s never a good reason as to why he just doesn’t tell Catherine that he’s seeing someone. So, he ends up just being dumb and whiny because that’s all he can be with the script the way it is. So, all in all, I really can’t tell you to play this for the story. You may get some satisfaction out of it, but it’s not likely to be the big draw.
Metacritic has the labeled as a “horror” game. I cannot see anyone being more wrong about anything ever (save for those who think “man of steel” was any good). This is a puzzle game through and through. Sure, there are non-puzzle parts, but most of your play time is going to be in the nightmare sections where you navigate the block walls until you reach the top. So if you look at “Tetris” the same way most gamers look at EA, there’s nothing here for you. If puzzle games are you kind of thing, then keep reading.
There are only two locations in the game you actually play in; the nightmare sections and Vincent’s favorite bar. In the nightmares section, you are set in a multistage, themed puzzle room. Each room is felled with boxes that you must maneuver and climb up with only one real objective: reach the top. However, it’s not just that simple. Different boxes do different things, and the trick is learning how to make them work together. Do you risk using the easily broken box, or do you risk the spike box that can kill you as soon as you step on it? And what chances are you willing to take when the nightly Boss appears? Oh yes, there are bosses.
With out game play footage I can’t really explain just how great these sections are, but they are truly fantastic. Figuring out exactly how to get past a section I was stuck on was one of the best feelings i’ve gotten from a game in a long time. Part of that is because of the insane difficulty. I played the game on easy and it is still one of the most challenging games i’ve ever played. Better yet, most of that challenge comes from the game making you think, and not poor controls. Mostly.
Yeah, the controls can get a bit frustrating. When your hanging off the edge, there isn’t a “get up” button, making me die a lot. The issues with the controls are even worse when you’re on the wrong side of the wall, as the camera doesn’t fallow you and will only turn 90 degrees. So, while I do love this part of the game, there are some times it’ll drive you crazy.
The section that takes place in the bar is…less fantastic. You get text and respond to them, as well as talk to the other patrons, some of whom are your fellow “sheep” (those who suffer from the same nightmares as you are). The main draw is that you can learn a bit more about what exactly is going on. But as i’ve said, the ultimate twist is really unimpressive and uninspired. However, this also shows the weakness of two sided moral choice game play. As there are two women in Vincent, certain chooses will lead you to one of the girls. However, some of the choices and how they aline just seem odd. For example, some one asks in the game, witch do you not care for: politics or economics? Neither of these are truly “bad”, but the one I chose gave me negative karma or whatever it’s called. However, this also leads me back to what I was saying about the games views on women. Another of the bars patron asked me what I thought about the fact that only 40% of women cheat in relationships. I was shocked to hear that, and that’s what I said as my response, and it gave me negative karma. In fact, every time my answer wasn’t exactly ass kissing towards women I got bad karma, but every one else in the game tended to be much harsher on women that I was. It’s almost like the game was trying to say “all women are evil, but you can’t say that because they’ll go crazy on you”, and that’s just not something I believe or can endorse.
It’s hard to judge the game play here because of all that. Can I truly give a game a good score when only half of it is any good? Even when the half that is good is this damn great? I don’t think I can.
Game Play: 2.5/5
Music and sound:
I’ve already said the the voice work was good, but hands down the stand out performance goes to Laura Bailey as Catherine. From the start she sells the whole “manic pixy dream girl goes nuts” thing. I haven’t played very much of the stuff she’s worked on, but if she remains this good this is one of the few voice actors I can truly say I hope gets more works. As far the the music goes, I switched the songs in the bars jukebox once then did everything I could to block it out. The score that plays during the games cutscenes aren’t bat though, so I really can’t complain too much. At the very least everyone has a voice, unlike Atlus’s other well known series “Persona”. Although, as I would happily play Persona 3 or 4 before I played this again, it has to be doing something right.
Music and sound: 2/5
Overall score: 2.1/5
Who is this game for:
People who like challenging games, people who like puzzles and people who like interesting ideas, even if they don’t always pay off very well. I admire what Atlus tried to do here, and I think you may too, but I really can’t say they accomplished what they wanted.