17 Reviews liked by heavenly_persona

my roommate walked in on the end of the final fight of pacifist to my gf crying during the hug scene and me consoling her because the goat was sad and was so lost (he knows nothing abt the game)

This review contains spoilers

The way we interact with narrative is part of a narrative. It's why so many reviews go into their experiences with a game. I will always love Final Fantasy VI because of it being hugely formative to my understanding of storytelling. Video games have a special method of tapping into this interactivity. They directly speak to the player and make them feel empowered in a narrative unlike any other medium with the amount of direct control you exert over them.
Undertale manages this flawlessly. The metatext intersects with the text in a beautiful way, the game recontextualizing the nature of video games themselves. When Flowey tells you that to 100% a game is to exhaust it of its meaning, of it being a world you could inhabit (not in those exact words, mind you, that would be a little too blunt for my liking) and draw upon his experiences a player-like entity, it made me think about the way I played video games. The way I interacted with the art form on the whole. Had I been making games worse for myself by 100%ing them? Had I been stripping them of their meaning by hollowing them out?
Doki Doki Literature Club! doesn't bother with messaging. Doki Doki Literature Club! consists of a game that interacts with metatext but only in its aesthetics, it uses it to say nothing and do nothing. When you reach the big twist of the game about halfway through, that it was actually self-aware akin to a creepypasta game, the game doesn't ever move on from that. It wears the guise of making commentary on visual novels, but never says anything specific. What am I supposed to take away from this experience?
What even is Doki Doki Literature Club! about? Who is it about? It's often cited as a satire of visual novels, but satire has to have direction behind it. It has to have meaning. This is just a game that aims for nothing. It uses the nature of metatextuality and shock horror in order to pretend it's saying something profound but it has no claims to make. It's wearing the husk of a better game.
Some people may be surprised to see that I dislike this game so much because I relate so heavily to Yuri's struggles with borderline personality disorder prior to the obnoxious creepypasta-ification. I do like Yuri and her portrayal.
I just wish she was in a game that stood for something.

The use of repetition and laborious exploration is fascinating. Not enough games are bold enough to waste your time with office drudgery, and even fewer manage to pay off those lost hours with a rewarding end. Challenging to recommend a game that requires 3-5 straight hours to play, but worth the investment if you can find time and enjoy media about the absurdist nightmare of an office building.

I have played this game like 8 times now, somehow it has taken hold of me like an illness that I will not heal from. Its secrets, its closure that it will not grant me is crushing as well as exhilarating. I am writing this review with the hope that others will share what information they have and we may compare notes here. Please, I will be institutionalized soon otherwise. Thank you

got the 'true ending', which guides the story into something beautifully radical - visceral on a pillowy, deep-in-the-soul kind of way. a very very good game 🔱

Surprisingly not that bad. I really enjoyed the main Reassemble campaign, I liked the story, the characters were great with some like Hulk being better than their MCU counterparts in my opinion. The gameplay is okay for what it is, but the main problem with it lies in the post game. Grinding upon grinding upon grinding. Unfortunately as well, the game is getting no more support, meaning all the build up to Captain Marvel and the Kree invasion was for nothing.

Venus was the first mirror a story ever held up for me
How my "goodness" during high school was nothing more than ignorance
Depersonalization and derealization mistaken for maturity
Shattered, racing eager and desperate toward any chance for change
The moment I learned what lit up the edge of my eyes

This review contains spoilers

The best art is art about people. It's art about experiences. It's art about life. So many pieces of art try and fail at this, and even more don't even try to accomplish it. Something like Fallout: New Vegas, for instance, is more of an exploration of political ideologies than anything else. Characters are often reduced to caricatures. While it's one of the greatest games of all time, it's not one that I have a deep emotional connection to. It's more out of a respect for its mechanical web of interactions that I love it than anything else.
Video games in particular ignore this a lot. So many of them elect to say nothing or say things about themselves. Even one of my favorite video games, Undertale, is mostly about metatext. It doesn't use art to further a point about anything other than the medium itself, and while it's still a very interesting and compelling point, it's still a point about games. It's possible to translate into a context outside of games, but it's difficult. To me, its discussion of the value of completing tasks in games and how we treat the universes of games with a hollow "complete it all no matter what is threatened" mindset can be carried over to genuine compassion to others outside of games, but you still have to do that work yourself.
Silent Hill 2, however, is one of the most palpably human works that I've ever come across. Each character feels tangible. Each character feels real. James' struggle with his own memories, and later, his guilt is something that I've had to come to terms with myself as well. Though not in the same way - I never killed one of my partners. One of my boyfriends killed himself years ago and I've spent that time grappling with that. Was there anything I could have done to change that? What should I have done? I still don't know, but I still think about it every day. It hurts and Silent Hill 2 just... gets it. James literally drowns in his own guilt surrounding the awful thing he did. What he did was obviously much, much worse than what I did, but I still relate to him. How his guilt eats him from the inside through monsters that are his literal inner demons, how it manifests in the form of Pyramid Head, a monster who leads him deeper and deeper into finding out the truth. It's harrowing how tangibly painful it is.
Though she died long before the events of the story, Mary herself is someone worth talking about. James' drive to find her, even though he knows deep down that she's gone, is what motivates him for most of the game. In addition to this, James' "idealized" version of Mary, named Maria, is a phantom who follows James around. We understand Mary through her for most of the game: she's a more sexualized and less argumentative version of her. One who isn't ill, which is something that James hated. James' resentment of Mary's condition is something that I fear my own partner feels as well. I don't have a terminal illness, but I have borderline personality disorder, which is a mental disorder that is volatile and hard to understand. It can be hell for him to deal with me and to take care of me. When Mary talks in her final letter about how James must hate her, it made me cry. I know what it's like to feel like you're a burden. How it feels to rely on someone, and how it feels to constantly worry that that person you love is suffering for it. It's a personal hell.
Speaking of personal hells, Angela's own is represented beautifully in her final scene, with everything burning around her. As she says that it's what it's like for her all the time and storms off, I truly felt her pain. Transgender women are in a constant uphill battle for survival. While not entirely comparable to her situation of being sexually abused by her family, I have been hurt that way before. I've been forced to do some unspeakable things that I won't go into detail about here for fear of triggering others' traumatic memories. Just know that the amount of power the game gives Angela despite her being a victim is breathtaking. She's the one who deals the final blow to her abuser. She's the one who chooses to walk away at the end, and ultimately, we don't get to know her fate. It's not her job to tell us what happened to her. Angela's erratic speaking patterns are highly relatable, and her fear of men is haunting. She's one of the best instances of a survivor of sexual abuse I've seen in a game.
Even the child character of Laura has some aspects of her that reflect the player back at you. Sure, she's spontaneous and often annoying, but who isn't sometimes? Laura is a scared child, who came to Silent Hill to find Mary as well. She also received some letters, strangely enough, though her situation isn't elucidated on much throughout the game. We know that she was close friends with Mary before Mary's death through her letter to Laura, though. Mary even goes as far to write that if she wasn't terminally ill she would have adopted her. Laura, in a lot of ways, was how I lashed out after my partner's suicide at the time. I was... angry. I hurt people. I cried. I couldn't take it. I felt like my emotions were out of my control, even more than usual. It was a nightmare. The unrestrained suffering of losing someone dear to you is perfectly represented through a child because in that moment and its aftermath, you feel as helpless as one might be.
When Eddie first entered the story, I rolled my eyes. Fatphobia is pretty common in art, and gaming even moreso. Fat characters typically only exist to be made fun of by others. However, I'm willing to overlook a lot of things if the art itself is powerful enough, and surprisingly, I don't think I even had to overlook it. Eddie's weight is made fun of by other characters, but the game treats his struggles with complexity - the abuse he suffered for his weight is what led him to fall further and further into his own fears and insecurities about himself. It eventually turns him into a killer, someone who's so afraid of everyone else's judgement that he's willing to end their lives. It's tragic, and even though he's the one who attacks you, killing him feels very dour. As someone who's been harassed my entire life for... obvious reasons, I really felt for him, in spite of his murderous tendencies. One of the biggest things that stands out to me about it is how respectfully it's treated: his plight is given a lot of depth despite what it makes him become. For such a small role, Eddie's grief is given time and importance to it.
There's a thread you may have noticed here throughout all of these people: Silent Hill 2 is a story about how we deal with abuse. Through these incredibly human portraits of people who have dealt with some form of abuse, we begin to understand how it affects people. It causes them to lash out, and sometimes, do horrible things to each other. It leaves generational scars that take longer than we know to heal. It can irreparably damage everything.
It's interesting to me that I often see people say that Silent Hill 2 isn't connected to the first entry. I was told to skip it entirely by most people, as the second entry didn't require any prior context from the first one. While the game is still a masterpiece without that context, I think the context enhances the experience. Silent Hill is a game about the abusive power structures of religion. It's a game about social ostraciziation. However, we never get to see these ideas in any context other than as an observer. We enter Alessa's headspace as a victim of abuse very late into the game's narrative, and we see it play out in front of us in a twisted retelling of her past. It's haunting in how childlike but off kilter the whole thing is, with the mind-defying spatial design. It's masterful.
Silent Hill 2, though, opts for a much more direct approach that works better to me. You are thrown directly into the lives of these characters - you're forced to experience their abuses with them, and discuss them, and dissect them. Silent Hill was the building blocks for Silent Hill 2's undercurrent of abuse. Playing Silent Hill will prepare you for the topics here and enrich your understanding them. Having been the viewer, you can now participate.
Silent Hill 2 is a game about people. Every one of them represents a facet of who we are. James' guilt. Mary's fears of being a burden. Angela's trauma. Laura's innocence. Eddie's insecurity. These people will make you reconsider yourself and everything about you. By the end of the game, you'll have been transformed. When you stare into the abyss that is Silent Hill 2, the only thing that stares back will be yourself, as unrecognizable as the pyramid on your head may be.
Even three years from now, I'm sure the town of Silent Hill will be a fixture of my restless dreams. And I'll be reminded of one of the greatest pieces of art that I ever had the chance to experience.

This review contains spoilers

yeah yeah yeah libertarians are dum dums and plot twists are unexpected, who cares
here's my own very personal gripe with bioshock. think about the storytelling in major games released shortly before this, like half-life 2 or psychonauts. what was it driven by? the characters and the environment -- pay attention to what's around you, listen to what people are telling you, and you'll get some part of the story. some parts you just won't get, ever, at all, because they've been left that way, or maybe because you've missed some non-obvious detail; maybe you'll come back to the story at a later time and it'll still surprise you with something you missed. it's up to you to wonder and interpret and use your imagination.
how does bioshock tell its story? through fucking audio logs. everywhere. everyone in rapture is constantly journaling their innermost feelings and secrets. why do they do this? because system shock 2 did it first. but that was on a god damn space ship in the space future, where you could easily believe personal audio recording devices have been commonplace and a part of life for generations, and besides, it was referencing a similar storytelling method from preexisting scifi like star trek: tng, which itself makes a great deal more sense because space naval officers on a journey of exploration would have both the time and the professional motivation to keep journals regularly.
bioshock takes place in like 1960 or so. magnetic tape recorders were "common", sure, in their industrial applications like radio, tv and the music industry, but they were not common household appliances, not until the introduction of cassette tapes in the second half of the 60s.
okay, let's say rapture's magical super technology driven by waves hands led to the creation and popularization of personal audio recording in less than the uhh two decades this city is supposed to have existed for. still doesn't explain why everyone is keeping a damn journal, except that it's for the player's convenience!
okay, so maybe it's a popular hobby, everyone's doing it, it's an expression of unfettered bourgeois individualism to treat your every insipid thought as worth recording for posterity (much like this review), sure, whatever. but then, in the game's timeline, the bad government starts cracking down on dissenters at one point -- you think that wouldn't have led to people destroying both their recorders and the recordings en masse? even people who probably had nothing to worry about but wanted to stay on the safe side anyway?
there's a guy who's supposed to be an ESL speaker doing a funny accent -- why is he recording these very private messages in broken english, instead of his first language? i guess it can be for practice... but come on! you don't really believe that! it's just because audiologs were established as the main storytelling method by the time he appears in the story, so he has to be audiologging for your convenience too.
why is it like this? well, in my personal opinion, vindicated by later developments in the series, it's because ken levine thinks he's a fucking genius among mortals and the rest of us mere jesters and bumblers need every background detail explained very slowly and carefully.
what's worse still, i think bioshock audiologs can be pointed to as one of the first occurrences of the dreaded phenomenon called "lore", which to me is not synonymous with worldbuilding and background detail, but background detail done badly -- i.e., the ubiquity of in-world information that you have no reason to have obtained, but that is given to you anyway, just so you can understand what's going on.
you shouldn't understand what's going on in a place that's gone to hell and eaten itself alive! it should be a lot of work to piece it together! it should be cryptic and disorienting and maybe nonsensical on your first go! but just like the profound moral choice of kill little child vs don't kill little child, this entire game was made for a certain intended player, one that exists solely in ken levine's imagination, and who is a gormless fucking fool. that's what this game thinks you are.
you don't even have to hand it to ken that he's right about the libertarians or whatever. of course the most extreme and ridiculous expression of american free market ideology is extreme and ridiculous! now if he'd managed to examine the same ideology as it expresses itself in more moderate, everyday, "normal" forms and still find the nightmare embedded within it... then maybe he would have made night in the woods instead. but i doubt that's something he's capable of.

In terms of understanding the all too encompassing 'drive' of consumption, both self made by years and years of false productivity and perhaps even inherently by our own selves, Mr Rainer is the most comprehensive stake on it. On every level even, emotionally, physically, metaphysically, it's all there! And because of that it is so so so draining. It's got buckets of symbolism and weaved online metaphors, it is so Learned on the aftermath of our connected minds and muses poignantly on where that all leaves us.
I think like, just flashing through some highlights real quick:
-the way self-help is recontextualized as a society "sustaining" coping mechanism that at best adds to the noise
-how value is a disgusting mortifying structure that we are required to keep in the back of our minds to exist, where its true attainment is in real connection. And how it's the only real warmth seen in this cold dying world.
-on that topic, how much I really want to just cuddle with Rene right now. Please.
-how each character and thread deals dually with sating hunger as it is in creating more of it
-despite being super gestural about many different things the raw imagery manages to evoke exactly what's happening to you/what you should be thinking about at any given moment
-that this game looks SOOO fucking visually good there's not a thing i can think of since El Shaddai that has swept me off my feet with its incredible choice in style and drawing. Also the music, 'mwah
-that this one managed to make me laugh the most out of etherane's black comedy catalog by embracing my terminally online memetic qualities like personality tests
This is not including lots and lots and lots more to think about!! I don't think I even really scratched the surface on its particularly heavy social media commentary (there are a couple things I won't talk about though because I doubt they'd ever get a real conversation otherwise), or just how the work communicates its lore and world! And how that actually just ends up defining the characters.
God it's SOOO good <3 I'm going to be a rainer stan until I die

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