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Paradise lost

I'm not kidding when I say this is one of the most sheer nerve-wracking games I've ever played. So, the whole mess starts when you, someone with terminal cancer, desperately wants to cling to life but nothing he tries, medical and otherwise, works. Until a priest tells him he can send him to the Garden of Eden where the Tree of Life resides, where then he'll be healed and granted eternal youth. He takes the offer and gets what he asks for... only it's not exactly what he expected. The Garden of Eden has changed a good deal since Adam and Eve left it those many eons past. A place once of indescribable beauty, the pinnacle of nature and creation, now abandoned by God and left to the devises of Hell's ravishings. Still, you believe, you persist, the Tree of Life MUST still exist somewhere in this pit of, well, rust and blood, and you're nothing if not determined.

Unfortunately there are more than a few things getting in your way. Every step you take increases your hunger meter. And your hunger meter isn't particularly big. And it doesn't take much to max it out. Thankfully it only goes up every time you move, but the only time where it's even feasible to stand still is in your "safehouse" where saving your game, making recipes, and sleeping (which also unfortunately slightly increases your hunger meter, but also resets food drops in fridges and quickly starts you off right in the morning) takes place. Otherwise you HAVE to keep moving, you can't be wasting a step anywhere. If you don't have any sufficient food supplies with you then you're assuredly toast (no, you don't get to make toast in this game sadly but it wouldn't be a bad addition I must say). Oh yeah, another reason not to waste a step - the timer. From 21:00 to 7:00 is when the monsters come out to play, and you don't want to be outside when that happens. But because this is probably Hell it naturally hates you so time goes by at rapid-fire speeds. There's no way to slow that down so you just have to be quick (you can run thankfully - I don't believe it takes up any more hunger than if you were to simply walk, though past a certain point, I think when your hunger reaches over 100, is when you're unable to run, and need to find something to eat to keep going). The beginning portions of the game, where you don't traverse too far from your abode, aren't too taxing on you, but as you move further along you must go deeper and deeper into Eden to find what you need putting yourself at even greater and greater risks.

Starting off, you're limited in where you can go. Doors are locked, fences are wired up, all you can do is collect some food and admire the scenery until you find the first thing that will allow you to progress some. It's at its core a series of finding the right item to get to the right place, where you get that item to take to the right place, etc. until you reach your final destination. And yes, as I've said, the journey isn't a pleasant one. One of the first shiny items you'll grab will trigger a mob of monsters to go after you. In a way it's almost expected. Nothing that looks shiny and pretty in games like these is ever anything but a trap. And the monsters? Yeah they're pretty freaky. Like, two people whose lower parts of their bodies have been chopped off with their upper parts conjoined at the abdomen, crawling around on fences and ropes, and they're probably not completely human either. Like a reverse version of the mannequin legs from Silent Hill 2.

So you keep going and you find a device to make recipes. It's a pretty basic system, you have a small list of recipes each of which require one of x and one of y but it's neat nonetheless and it's great of course for stocking on food supplies that will last you better than a plain clove of garlic or a mushroom by itself (and you also get some use out of the other items you were unable to before). Believe me, these will be life-savers toward the end. Ah yes, the ending. I won't say much except one involves a VERY long trek to a maze-like area that even during the "day" still has dangerous plant-like things and a...
clown head
(no, seriously), the former which can damage you and you need to maneuver around, and the latter straight-up pouncing on your soon-to-be corpse. Maneuvering here to find what you need (what you need being more than one thing, I will say) is probably the most sphincter-clenching part of the game. Running into dead ends, going in circles, your hunger increasing, the TIME increasing... actually even if you get everything you need quickly the trek back is long enough that there's no way you won't hit night time by the time you get the hell out. Thankfully your place isn't too far away. Once you made it, it truly feels like you've gone through an ordeal. And I say that in a good way. A game like this should make you feel anxious.

And the very, very last section... I won't give away what it is or what happens, but it's definitely there to send you into an even greater panic than before, albeit in a more straightforward manner than the previous section. If you don't have any decent food supplies going into this area you're pretty much immediately screwed. What's amazing is that I made it through on my first try, when almost every other section in the game had at least one thing that killed me, and this final area had so many things, so many ways that can leave you dead. Maybe I had become so accustomed to the game's design I grew an instinct for how to survive it even if this particular place was something of a curveball.

Now, besides the reptilian "holy crap I'm gonna die I need to get out of here and get food NOW" response the game induces, is there anything else of note in terms of horror? Oh yes, yes definitely. The constant industrial clatter, like the sound of machinery going haywire, the humming of power grids and the ghosts of long-dead trains, this is most certainly a headphone game if I've ever heard one. Visuals are just as striking, scenes of rusted saw blades just buzzing away, with no purpose, out in the great blackness, an inexplicable train, abandoned and inoperable, grids of strange glowing auras, and the very much Silent Hill-inspired metal grating covered in deep, deep shadows and equally deep red, much like everything else. Definitely exemplary of a game that gives you exactly what it says on the tin.

Now the ending. I think what it communicates is pretty clear but I just wanted to remark on a certain movie it reminds me of:
Not just The Fountain, which I've read in the comments for this game was indeed an inspiration for the part where you blossom into a bunch of flowers after tasting the sap, though here using this imagery to say that no, there really is no Eden, no eternal life, all you are doing is stalling the inevitable and that death is something which cannot be escaped. But besides that, I'm also thinking of another movie, one that's been cited as a major influence on a lot of other horror games, that being Jacob's Ladder. Y'know the one that Silent Hill took inspiration from? But I think this game reminds me of that movie in a way that's different than most games that take inspiration from it - I am talking, as previously mentioned, the aspect of dying, and holding onto life in futility in the face of it all. Remember the chiropractor character Louie from that movie? He has that one line of dialogue that's truly poignant and also sums up the whole movie essentially: "If you're frightened of dying and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth." Jacob would seem to get a more peaceful end than the character here, but all the same, he has found his Tree of Life, his own angel, bringing him to accept death and to leave the demons and hellish landscape behind. The story is minimally told; we get the opening dialogue, and occasional bits here and there of the protagonist talking about his condition and his attempts to treat it, but it's never overly specific, particularly about what the priest does that allows him to "visit" this vision of "Eden." All it says is that it would be against his vows to conduct the act. I am unsure, I would assume some form of hypnosis, some way of getting into his psyche. This man is on his deathbed, but will not accept it, and so must be guiding him through "Eden" to where he can find what he is looking for, only to find out it's only there to take him away. It is unclear if he really accepts death in the end, it would seem not based on what we see, but it has taken him regardless, and via the way he unintentionally intended - tasting the sap of supposed life. And he truly is at peace now that he no longer has to fight, has to run away, has to stop the demons tearing his life away. He can now rest.

That would make for a good closer I think but it's also a spoiler so I'll end it this way instead: DEFINITELY play this game if you want a true rounded horror experience. It nails pretty much every little thing ever done in a good survival horror - there's the uncomfortable atmosphere, visually and aurally, grim themes, complete helplessness, unknowable monstrosities, panic, both in trying to survive and in trying to beat a sadistic clock, it has it all! If anything holds it back, it's at how surprisingly short it was. Shortness is a complaint I probably bring up too often in my reviews, so you can probably ignore me if you don't care for that stance, but I mean, considering the setting and subject matter, it feels like it should be so much more expansive than it really is. I guess, my definition of a game that feels "too short" is when it ends when you least expect it. Still, I cannot complain too much, it all came to a satisfactory and moving conclusion, it did everything it set out to do and did it all very well, plus, the less anxiety I have to deal with, the better, so maybe it's a mercy the game ends so soon. :P But indeed, really applaud-worthy effort here, check it out.