A darkly beautiful game of exploration and madness, I could recommend this game entirely on the basis of its look and its mood. Unfortunately, I kind of have to.
Page 15, Game 28: The Guilt and the Shadow by oophok
You are a deeply troubled man. Something terrible and tragic has befallen you; based on the fact that you have some prescribed meds, you might even have some mental illness thrown in just for good measure. You are trapped in the labyrinth of your own mind, desperately trying to process what has happened. This takes the form of exploring a series of platforms and solving the puzzles within.
The game looks and sounds fantastic. Your avatar is a perfectly-animated 3D model, while the rest of the backgrounds are a consistent crude-but-creepy style, everything in black and white.
You’ll explore, you’ll interact. You’ll find things that will help you move forward.
What may be harder to figure out is … why.
Each stage represents … something. Something related to whatever trauma it is you’re struggling to process. There are words, there are images. There was a boat. There was a woman, there was a child. Perhaps it was your fault. Between stages, there will be an interstitial in the “real world,” as represented by your depressing-ass room. You’ll get some more information, but it’s not as helpful as one might hope.
What happened? What does it all mean?
I played the game to completion, and I honestly couldn’t tell you with any degree of confidence.
That confusion, unfortunately, extends to the gameplay itself. Why am I pushing this slab around? Well, because it’s pushable, and presumably, where I push it is where it needs to be.
I can’t get to that ladder, because there are eyes and chains and shit blocking it. How do I get rid of that blockade? No idea … oh, look, I picked up a thing, now the blockade is gone. Sweet. That’s definitely progress.
This gets better as the game progresses, mostly. There’s still a fair amount of do-it-cuz-I-can up until the end, but actual logic puzzles start showing up, forcing me to, like, think and shit. That magic chicken flute I picked up can play songs, as long as I’m in front of mechanized chicken statues.
If you play a song the statue doesn’t care about, it will ignore you. If you play a song it responds to, it will respond with a TERRIFYING YOWL SUITABLE FOR LETTING THE CITIZENS OF TOKYO KNOW THEY SHOULD SEEK SHELTER BECAUSE GODZILLA APPROACHES and also change the state of the game in some way.
Unfortunately, the underlying story remained deliberately obtuse until the very end. I appreciate that it wants me to engage with the symbolism and such, but … look, I’m kind of a basic bitch. At some point, I need some shit spelled out for me. What the hell HAPPENED? Was the woman my wife, my mother? Was the kid my son?
I just don’t know. I even got all the way to the very end (where I’m pretty sure my reward was the sweet release of death), and I still don’t know.
It’s safe to say this game offered me more in the journey than it did the destination, but I gotta say, it was a pretty solid journey. The story’s impenetrable, the gameplay is fine but nothing special, but good god DAMN does this game set a mood. The opening credits recommend you play with headphones on and in a darkened room, and … yeah, I actually kinda regret that I didn’t wait until the sun was down to play it.
It’s creepy, it’s eerie, it’s darkly beautiful. I don’t know that I’d call it a horror game, but it ain’t fuckin’ Mario, either. I’d have liked it better if I understood more of WTF was happening and why, but I was ultimately glad to have played it all the way through to the end. If you feel like playing something suitable for a dark room, I can definitely recommend it.
Perhaps this one will be a bit more accessible:
Page 31, Game 25: By Your Side by Takafumi
“Live a daily life of love!”
I’m already concerned there may be some translation issues. What the hell, let’s find out!