5 Reviews liked by Hal_Incandenza

As clumsily executed as it is transgressively playful. Nonetheless remains an intensely harrowing experience headlined by breathtaking sound work and a deliciously grimy visual framework. It's a striking showcase in visceral, hard hitting scares even if it doesn't really have any impact beyond the moment. There are stretches of masterful horror craft here (the mines, the river, blood rain, and the school) but there are more than enough traces of disappointing design choices (wonky level layout, tedious notes/lore bits, useless microphone option, janky controls) that only elicit frustration as the game progresses. For something built and reliant on thrilling chases and an encompassing dread filled atmosphere, issues like those can be detrimental. While it thankfully doesn't think itself to be a deeply profound statement on the innate hypocrisy of religious institution, there is something amusing about a game like this treading into those waters with such earnest pulpy flair. It's certainly a special game; one I could see myself calling great at some point.

No Longer Home wears its inspiration on its sleeve, having a scene from the opening of Kentucky Route Zero on its protagonist's computer screen at one point. It bears some resemblance to KRZ in its dialogue system and set design, but taking place over a much shorter time-span and much smaller space. This is a nice little slice of life game about a couple of recent college grads about to move onto the next stage of their lives. Taking place the day before the big move, it deals with a lot of the stresses and anxieties that come with not knowing what comes next in life, how your relationships might change, what personal and societal expectations there are for your future, and how the market forces of capitalism muddy the waters even further. While the visual elements are steeped in magical realism, the semi-auto-biographical nature of its writing gives the story a very personal feeling that lets you really linger in this moment of the characters lives. This could have earned an extra star if it had the time to really delve deeper into some of the topics it brings up, but for an exploration of a small moment in life, I enjoyed the brief time I spent here.

Colonialism and its cyclical bloodshed, dying civilizations and crumbling empires, eternal darkness and the suffering that exists within it, primitive regression, fertility and motherhood. Amnesia: Rebirth runs the symbolic and thematic gamut of fragmented ideas that tie in to the over arching theme of insanity in its different connotations; moral and ethical, mystic and cosmic, inner and outer and the intertwining of all these.

Had a mental flash of this game before going to bed and now here in the dark I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s something that’s only going to continue growing in my mind and I believe public stature over time. Let down by the expectations of those either looking for another Soma or another Amnesia, this forgoes both the existential dread of the former and the stream-ready scares of the latter in lieu of something slower and more intimate in scale. It is unfortunately shortsighted at times in regards to its match mechanic which felt like a cheap way to drum up tension in an already effectively claustrophobic and fear inducing setting but it nonetheless contributes to the game’s endlessly frantic pacing. It is exhausting to play this but seeing as we are playing a pregnant woman (Tasi, stunningly performed by Alix Wilton Regan) it may be entirely the point for it all to feel so laborious. And how invigorating to see something so indebted to its main character and her feelings and reactions to the world around her. The internal monologue is at once anxiously realistic as it is frequently silly. What I love about this game is how it sets itself up so slowly and yet plunges the player head first into a plethora of heady concepts and outlandish imagery. While it may not all seem cohesive at first, it is in the patient unveiling of subdued details that Frictional Games’ mastery at world building shines through. This is probably their most confident effort yet even if some age old problems slip through the cracks (janky controls and some dated graphics). It didn’t quite hit me as hard as Soma initially did but the finale where the answers are eventually found and the haunting final shot (“Iconoclast” ending) has propelled this into special territory for me. Despite my doubts that gameplay and story elements of the game would fully come together or function to the best ability, I was won over by how streamlined and varied the overall experience was. Not particularly scary, but had my heart leaping out of my chest through pure intensity. Many times I thought I was doomed, only for that sliver of hope to appear. It is easy to feel maddened by this loop but it truly is Tasi that keeps it all grounded in bittersweet optimism.

My finger is broken from all the clicking.

It's good to know even in the virtual world I'll still never have a boyfriend.