• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

Beginner's Errors

  • meaka
  • 07/21/2016 05:56 AM
  • 779 views
By the nature of this being a review, I will talk in-depth about events of the game. Including spoilers. Please be aware of that!


Very nice


The Convent is a puzzle horror game made by Mikeru in RMVX Ace. The general premise is that a teenager named Mike is camping with his family. When he gets cold at night, he wanders to a campfire and discovers a grisly scene that leads him back to the titular place.

In terms of things you cannot gather from the main page of the game, The Convent is, if not Mikeru's first game, given his empty RMN profile page, at least somewhere on the top of the list of first attempts. Given that fact and some additional aspects written between the lines within the game, I cannot in good consciousness give this game a star score because I do not want to be the grown adult kicking sand in a child's face for making beginner mistakes.

Story:

Mike wanders away from his family camp because he's cold. Why he cannot light his own fire, I'm not sure. Perhaps his family didn't want their child playing with fire in the dead of night. Either way, he ends up drawn to a nearby campfire. And naturally, this camp has some nasty business going on and there's bloody footprints leading into the tent. Inside, more blood, a notebook hidden in some knapsacks, and a note from a dead nun explaining that the nearby convent has fallen victim to a curse and everyone is dead. Including the nun writing this note. Cue jumpscare scene of the nun's ghost running away.

With mysterious statues blocking the way back to his own camp, Mike has no choice but to go forward and into this convent. Well. He could have always not gone in, but there would be no game if the teenager who finds bloody footprints leading to a dead nun holding a key didn't decide "hey cool, let me just take a peek inside!" From there, it gets as convenient as most generic survival horror plots get. He finds more dead nuns, a lot more blood, demons, and a surprise Living Nun ally.

The "twist" is, of course, that the living nun is not alive, but is in fact the ghost of Sister Mary, the convent's head nun. Who is the cause of the curse of the demons, by the way. Notes left behind by various nuns (and occasionally things said by 'Living Nun' referring to herself in the third person, probably to keep the 'surprise') detail that this convent is a place for abandoned or orphaned children. Except for Sister Mary, who has a family. Why she's at this convent and how she became the head nun at the age of 25 is never quite explained. This isn't so much a problem as the justification behind Sister Mary calling upon the demons is... something. Her parents were murdered and the criminal responsible got off free, so she decides demonic vigilantism is the way to go. This could have been a chance to make Sister Mary an interesting, complex character, exploring the dichotomy between her status as a religious figure meant to be pure, loving, and forgiving and her human nature and disgust, rage, and desire for revenge. But in a game that only clocks in at around 34 minutes, there's only so much of that we can have, so instead that entire dilemma is handwaved and the concern is that the demons decided Nun murder is much more exiting than Murderer murder. While approaching religion is tough enough and the game's description even mentions not wanting to dive into that aspect, I feel as though you can still approach that idea while remaining impartial.

The narrative also deprives the player of forming their own thoughts. Though the main page boasts "take your choices wisely, decide your own fate," there's no time for that besides the arbitrary "here's where you can either get a good or bad end" choice.


Or the secret third choice: looping the event over and over!


Deciding to leave with what is assumed to be the sole surviving nun to get her to safety is the Bad End, because we need to stop the demons for good! Because. uh. some nuns wrote nice things about Sister Mary and she died trying to get everyone out so I guess we should finish the job. And this goes further at the reveal that Sister Mary is the source of the curse. Instead of either allowing multiple reactions here or even not having Mike speak to allow the player to formulate their own thoughts on what she did, Mike thinks "well golly gee, family and stuff, I guess that wasn't so bad! Plus she felt bad and now she's dead so let's chase away the demons!" While not overly terrible or the worst plot device conceived, it felt a bit jarring to have the situation thrown out with a shrug and a "but she did it for faaaaamily!"

From there the game loses nearly all form of tension or attempts at horror, you just need to collect some holy relics and then shank the Big Boss demon. Then the Sister Mary = "Living" Nun reveal plays out and all the ghost nuns float away peacefully into the sunset while Mike walks off, probably to explain to his parents why he wandered off in the dead of night.

All in all, the plot isn't godawful and inexcusable, but it could have been much more powerful than it was. It's carried out like an outline or a first draft. It does fall back onto convenient coincidences and handwaves more often than not, but it occasionally feels like it had direction. With edits and maybe more emphasis put on the characters and their choices, it could have been something good. But that's what first games are for, right? Get out our less exciting, less formulated ideas and slowly build skill as a storywriter. Also, more time to realize that 25 is a very young age to become a head nun!

Gameplay:

Much of The Convent plays out like your standard "person locked in a x" RPGM horror games, particularly the love affair with sudden game overs that The Witch's House made a genre staple. Mike will find a note from a dead nun, some jumpscare may happen, and doing things will either result in a game over or the cue to advance on to the next puzzle. Puzzles which tend to be "find the key to get the next key" variety. A nice exception was the "don't follow in my footsteps" puzzle, which was both straightforward and fairly clever.


Or sometimes... this happens. This puzzle made no sense. If the clock stopped when she died, wouldn't it have still been on that time and not need to be moved? Did the demons change it for giggles? We may never know.


There's a fair number of game overs and things that try to be jumpscares, which is nothing new, but none of them feel particularly memorable. Luckily, the game allows for saving from the menu so there isn't a tedious amount of backtracking involved when you accidentally discover that trying to touch a statue makes you immediately combust. In a nice change of RPGM horror pace, there isn't a timed chase sequence or any false difficulty puzzles.


Pictured: a skeleton that did not come to life and chase me, no matter how many times I thought it would!


Some solutions don't exactly make sense. The other review here mentions the dead demon holding the key in its body, and I too made the mistake of thinking the saw would be the solution, not the mirror shard. And then the actual use of the saw made even less sense to me. There's incredible amounts of blood throughout the convent to the point I'm concerned what the nuns were doing before the demon invasion. There was an entire bathtub full in the laundry room! Making the player get bit by the snake, then sever your hand makes the least amount of sense. Particularly considering that it would be far more likely that Mike would die of blood loss from self-surgery than the snake venom killing him in 10 seconds. But hey, it's a demon snake, I don't know. Either way, a simple bandaging preventing this poor teenager from bleeding out on a convent floor feels like a cop-out and could've been left out all together, seeing as nothing plotwise else happens given Mike's newfound handicap.

Graphics + Mapping + Sound Design:

I've combined these together because graphically, this appears to be the RMVX Ace RTP with maybe some additional graphics. For the most part, there's nothing particularly glaring or notable about the graphic elements. The entire game falls victim to the unfortunate misconception that copious amounts of bloodsplatter is terrifying, but by the second room in it just becomes part of the background and you don't pay it much mind.


But then this happens. You're supposed to be suspicious. I tuned all the blood out and was not. Oops.


Likewise, any sounds appear to be RTP as well. There's little, if any music, and despite having opening animations, doors don't make noise. The minimal use of music does sort of add to the scary atmosphere, except for that when there is, it's the songs that come with RMVX Ace so they instantly break the mood in their cheesy RPG glory.

The mapping is perhaps the biggest issue, sometimes literally. The Convent falls victim to a common first mistake in that many of the maps are way too big and way too empty to be as large as they are. Perhaps the most egregious example is the room with the piano. Besides the fact there are definitely more than 88 keys on that thing, there's no other furniture and the room is large enough that it scrolls in all four directions. This poor nun has nothing to keep her company besides a giant piano in a huge, empty room. That's the real tragedy here. The scale of maps is a tricky thing at first and I made this very mistake so I can't fully fault Mikeru for doing the same. Thankfully, this game does include a run option so you aren't stuck walking at a snail's pace through huge halls.

General Errors:

No first game is without them! These are ones that I've encountered and don't make the game impossible to win or break it, but are things to consider for next time or even touched up for future fixed versions.

•The spider monster in the basement is harmless. I'm guessing it was set to player touch rather than event touch. It rammed into me several times before getting bored and skittering around, which I used to walk up the steps and have Mike be so surprised he got out of that. Somehow.

•Passablility is a general issue. Several maps lack any sort of wall to prevent the player from wandering in the abyss. Also, the tiger monster can't walk over the "cracked" tiles, leaving you in a 9x9 safe spot. Until you start breaking them, of course.

•There's a fair number of typos and grammatical mistakes. Most of them are minor, and some of which seem to be due to English not being the creator's first language. 99% of them are easy to overlook or don't necessarily detract from the game. However, there is this one that got me for like a minute because I'm six at heart.

In Conclusion:

This comes off probably much more harsh than I mean it. Mikeru seems to have a clear idea in mind and very obviously knew the type of story he wanted to tell. Very few first games are brilliant masterpieces, and it's the mistakes we make that allow us to grow and improve and better ourselves. The Convent is far from being groundbreaking, memorable, or anything other than someone's first experiments with RPG Maker. There's things it does alright, then things that fall into "cliche horror game" territory. The writing could use editing and perhaps a beta or two to help catch typos or things that don't make sense or could be expanded on. Sound design in particular is important for horror, so the notable lack of SFX and unfitting RTP music occasionally kill any mood that's been established.

A good plant. A mediocre game. A first start that could lead to bigger and better things provided the mistakes are fixed. Never give up, kids.