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There are no banjos

  • nhubi
  • 05/20/2014 04:12 AM
  • 1497 views
Writing this review took a long time. Not because it's particularly complex or detailed (the review, not the game) but because this game made me uncomfortable. There is a premise, revealed late in the game that I'm not going to reveal because it would be a major spoiler, that simply clashes with my world-view. As such it took me a while to sit down to write this, however as my personal preference isn't necessarily anyone else's, I don't believe this well crafted piece of work should be without a review.


First of all let me say that the idea you can avoid a god-driven apocalypse by hiding in the woods and locking your door is just brilliant. It's the grown up equivalent of pulling the covers over your head whilst fervently repeating 'if I can't see you, you can't see me". Though given that somewhat silly start, the game itself is anything but.


Well, at least it's polite, and well punctuated.

One thing, there are no battles. The enemies in this game aren't that way inclined.

There are a few pass-ability issues, not being able to walk behind a chest of drawers in your basement for example, but you can get around them.

The music is good, it's not standard fare and fits the areas in which it is used (though yes, there are no banjo's). The first section set inside John's (our everyman protagonist) house is rustic guitar which works perfectly with the atmosphere of a secluded house in the woods. Though there is sequence later on in the town with some real echo issues, especially when wearing headphones which does need to be cleaned up. Still with that exception it's solid, fits the atmosphere and changes frequently enough to stop the irritation factor from repetitiveness.

The graphics are all custom made, and also work quite well. There are a couple of small glitches, a face set not showing up the first time a character speaks but that corrects itself early on.


Yes, it does, I'm glad you noticed.

The look and feel of the lonely mostly abandoned town is well conceived though I did have a few reservations early on about the lack of re-growth after two years of abandonment, but that gets explained late in the piece so I was comfortable with that aspect.

Still, all of that is backdrop to the story which is what drives this game. After two years of metaphorically hiding under the covers John has run out of some basic supplies and therefore has to brave the world beyond his garden gate for the first time since that message in the sky. There's a hardware store on the other side of town that he hopes hasn't been looted too badly in the madness and chaos that overtook the planet once the reality of the end of days hit the populace.

However once he leaves the precarious safety of his home and environs he is confronted and stopped by a thing. That's really the only word for it. The sprite is a floating flaming doll, but it calls itself an angel. Don't starting thinking wings and a harp, it's not that kind of angel, it's a 'you cannot see my true form lest your eyes burn out and your brain boil' type. Fans of Supernatural are going to be a little confused by the similarity of the names, but trust me there are no trench coats in sight and anyway that's Castiel. Cassiel (the thing in the game) is mythologically an angel who just watches and doesn't interfere, though this angel/thing doesn't exactly stick to the script.

After a little confusing conversation and a random teleport John eventually makes it into town to find that the place is not as empty as he thought it would be and he finally manages to catch up with the other sole survivor, a woman (of course) named Sara.


Can you spot another odd tree?

What follows next is basically a long fetch-quest. 12 keys are needed to get past the impenetrable, geographically ambivalent and mostly invisible wall that surrounds the town. They are all hidden somewhere within the scope of your environs. Some are obvious; others require you to have found a certain number of them before the location of another will be revealed. Along the way you and Sara are either aided or hindered by the flaming kewpie-doll angels, but in most cases they simply aren't interested in you. The overall feeling is that you are the remnants of a by-gone era, the last inhabitants of an empty world, beings who have outlived their place. It's eerie and somewhat threatening without overtly appearing to be. No-one wants to think they are irrelevant, and so you strive to give your life meaning. To find some purpose and plan in a world that no longer needs any. It's a dystopian dynamic to fit a dystopian world and it rings exceedingly true.



This one is useful, sort of. Hell at least it's covering the freaky in a space-suit.

As portions of the town are revealed you get well handled exposition, both in character background and world history during John's two years without outside communication. You also get a growing sense that things aren't exactly as they seem, but then again you are supposedly the last two humans trapped by an impenetrable barrier and ignored by angels whilst on a quest for freedom, so normal isn't exactly the watchword here.

Eventually you reveal some secrets, get to know one another better and ultimately find all the keys you need, and the question becomes, what next? Are you just going to the hardware store to get those tools you needed, or are you going to head out into the wild world, and if you do, what for? What's left out there?

This is where we get to the part that made me uncomfortable, and will spoil the game, so I'm not going to continue. Suffice to say though I don't find what comes next satisfactory for me, that isn't to say it won't be for anyone, or indeed, everyone else. So I can only recommend you play it and find out for yourself. It is worth the 2-3 hours of your time it will take, and leave you with a few interesting questions to ponder.


Posts

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Thank you both for the feedback you provided on your playing experience. I knew the game's ending would create at least a slight sense of unease, but I also hoped it might open up a few questions in the mind of the player, which, from what I've read here is exactly what happened. I had initially anticipated abysmal reviews for this game, and I'm both honored and humbled that the response so far has been quite the opposite.

To provide some insight into where this game came from, I was inspired by an event that occurred a few years ago: the May 21, 2011 Harold Camping end of the world prediction. It gained a surprising number of followers and some considerable media attention (here in the U.S., anyway, I'm not so sure about other parts of the world). I thought about what might happen if humanity were provided with irrefutable evidence that the world was coming to an end, and what the response might be. I unfortunately couldn't imagine a... positive response, and I thought an RPG Maker game might be an interesting medium to explore this topic.

In response to the idea of future projects, well - this one took quite a bit out of me, so I can't make any promises. That said I'm already mulling over a few ideas in my head so I don't know if I'll be able to avoid the temptation of creating a new game for long. Whatever comes next will probably be much more lighthearted, as I don't quite have the emotional capacity to create another game like this one.

And TungerMan, If you ever do get around to writing a review for this game I'd be very happy to read it! That being said I understand how limited free time can be while developing a project of your own, so there's no pressure whatsoever. Thanks again to both of you for the quality feedback.
nhubi
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
11099
Thanks TungerManU, like I said in the preface this was a hard one to write and I really didn't want to let my personal unease colour the review. I'm very glad to know that you believe it was fair, as that was my intent. Please, if you find the time, write one of your own, I'd be interested in your take on the subject.

extravaluemenu, I'm going to go look up that incident, I always find motivation compelling, and no in my little pocket of the world it wasn't known.
Could you elaborate about your thoughts on the ending reveals? I just finished and I think I'm currently still trying to process it. It...certainly is a thing.
CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
10522
I'd like to reiterate argh's request... I thought it was an incredibly philosophical game, and created an interesting world full of complexities. It was pretty mind screw-y. But I would like to see a review with spoilers for the ending, and perhaps coloured with your own personal opinions.
nhubi
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
11099
I'm sorry but no. There is no way I could review the ending without applying my own personal preferences to the detriment of even a semblance of objectivity.
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