Needs something more. And by “more,” I mean “less.”
Page 5, Game 8: Code 7 – Episodes 2 & 3 Available Now by Goodwolf Studio
You wake up in a darkened room. You restart the system. You are able to contact someone — Sam, a stranger who claims to know you. She says that the two of you are here on this planet to investigate why the colony suddenly went dark. Sam is up, and mobile. Meanwhile, you will help her as best you can, for you are … The Guy In The Chair!
(My eternal gratitude to Spider Man: Homecoming for introducing “The Guy In The Chair” into the vernacular. It was so overdue.)
With your help, Sam will investigate. Turns out, there was an AI! So, you know THAT project turned into a combination of dogshit and hellfire. You interact with the world with a combination of typing commands and pre-selected text messages you can send to Sam. But is something not as it seems…?
I mean, fucking duh.
If you’ve been reading these reviews — which must mean you’re my wife, hi Jasmine! — this may sound familiar to ANOTHER Guy In The Chair game I came across in this trawl, NOISE1, which I loved. How does this game compare?
In a lot of ways, it’s NOISE1 with a budget. All dialog from other people is fully voice-acted. There are animations and shit, with the game doing interesting flickering stuff that may or may not be giving you hints. The graphics are consistently professional quality; from top to bottom, the game looks and sounds great.
NOISE1 kicks the shit out of it. That doofy little silent ASCII-art game is more fun in every way.
I WANT to like Code 7. It’s very ambitious, and is trying so very, very hard. Unfortunately, the pacing is just atrocious. This game moves VERY slowly. The game’s equivalent of cutscenes have a tendency to drag on and on, too often interspersed with “gameplay” where you’re not really making decisions, you’re just completing a rote set of tasks. Every once in a while there’s a problem to solve, and that’s when the game starts to come alive — but then the moment will pass, and you’re back to cutscenes.
The game lives and dies by the story it’s telling — and for me, it very much died by it. That rascally AI is indeed up to no good, and it felt very sci-fi-noir-by-numbers. It’s just tossing some fairly standard tropes at you. It’s not awful, I don’t demand the plot to every game be Hugo-worthy innovative fiction, but if so much of the game is just an inconsequential wrapper for the story, I’m afraid I have to insist the story be better than this.
Contrary to the way the game presents itself, it appears to have Parts 0, 1, 2, and 3 all in this one package. After I got done with Part 0, I came back in and discovered I was able to move on to Part 1. Okay, Sam and I are headed back to Earth, and that silly singularity has launched a virus — the titular Code 7 — towards it. We gotta stop it! But due to Reasons, I find myself on Mars, in the middle of someone ELSE’S story. A completely unrelated story.
Look, nice reporter lady, I have a fucking killer virus to stop! I don’t have time for your corporate dystopian shenanigans!
Except I better fucking well MAKE some time for it. This side quest is mandatory.
So, whatever narrative momentum the prologue generated gets completely shafted by a brand new collection of cobbled-together tropes for you to stumble through. Slowly.
I wanted to play through the next chapter, at least. I was morbidly curious to find out just how predictable the game was. As I traversed one computer node after another, I was studiously deploying my anti-virus software as I went, fully expecting that by the time I got to the end of the chapter, the game would reveal that my anti-virus software … WAS the virus! I’d been spreading it all along! WHAT A TWIST!
WAS that the twist? I truly have no idea. After several hours of gameplay, I was about (I think?) halfway through the chapter, and I just got too bored with the whole thing to keep going. Maybe the game wasn’t lying to me, in which case the LACK of twist would have come as a pleasant surprise. Maybe I called it exactly. Maybe it was some other whattatwist. I just stopped caring after a while.
As you traverse the nodes, some computers you have to log into. For some, you have to gather enough personal information about the user to use your brute-force password cracker. Others, for no reason I was able to suss-out, force you to play a hacking mini-game:
The minigame is clumsy and awkward, and I still don’t fully understand what the tools at my disposal were allowing me to do. I have to trace a route without being caught by the things, then set up a packet interceptor, but watch out if they get it they’ll destroy the interceptor, except I can set up a kind of hacking module that will trap them, but that ALSO seems to trap the packet I’m intercepting and force me to restart for reasons I wasn’t really clear on….
Compare this to NOISE1, which did a marvelous job of laying out both what I could do and why I might want to do it. It had a story to tell — and it told it, giving me interesting puzzles to solve every step of the way. I never felt like I was doing anything rote, I never felt like I was wasting my time. I felt ENGAGED in a way that Code 7 never got anywhere near.
If The Guy In The Chair sounds like a fun game but you tried NOISE1 and found that the lo-fi ASCII feel made you break out in hives, I suppose I could recommend giving this game a look. I glanced at some other reviews, and it looks like people who aren’t me actually found it quite enjoyable. But I’m not gonna lie, I don’t see it. There’s not nearly enough game to this game, which winds up putting weight on a storyline that can’t come anywhere near supporting it. I say skip it.
So, where is this next game gonna put my brain?
Page 27, Game 15: WaveCrash!! by Flyover Games
“Head-to-head puzzle brawling action where you match blocks to smash faces!”
Damn, multiplayer. Hope the AI doesn’t suck. Still, I DO like puzzles and face-smashing, so it may hold some promise.