Monday, October 15, 2007


Developer: Game Republic
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: Oct. 9, 2007
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Generic beat-'em-up... of the dead!

0:01 A purple stone tower rises above a hole in the sunset clouds on the title screen. Pretty little butterflies of light flutter about. I love the orchestral score.

0:02 Someone opens a book "I lost my mother when I was very young. My only memory of her is telling me bedtime fairy tales when I was very young." But wait... she got a letter that her mom is actually alive. "Mother, why did you wait so long?" Sorry... I had to wait for the tax man to stop looking for me (I may have made up that last part).

0:03 The captain of the ship won't go any closer to the spooky island, so the woman jumps into the sea fully clothed and swims for it. The characters look very nice, until they open their mouth and it doesn't match with the dialogue at all.

0:04 An abrupt shift to some guy talking about the mysteries of life and death being unlocked by science. He's a reporter for an "occult magazine." A phone call: It sounds like the woman from before reporting that faeries will kill her in the island town of Doolin. He thinks it's a prank, but he journeys out to Doolin, "the realm of the dead," to check it out anyway.

0:06 The guy runs into the girl, whose talking to a woman she thinks is her mother. Apparently she didn't make the phone call. The woman falls over dead and then falls further off a cliff. "A murder in the village of the dead. Tell me this is a joke," the guy says. I have no idea what's going on, but I have a strong desire to find out.

0:07 I can choose between the girl, Ellen, or the guy, Keats. I have an affinity for journalists in games, so I go with our occult reporter friend.

0:08 Awww, the high-quality English/Scottish accented voice acting has given way to text. So much for establishing the mood through high quality speech.

0:09 As a tour guide might say, "We're walking... we're walking... and we're stopping," on the beach where the corpse fell. Now the story is told through lightly animated panels with comic book word balloons and lilting music. It's an oddly enchanting effect. Anyway, some other woman is down on the beach. No sign of the corpse. She offers Keats a place to stay. "My questions can wait for tomorrow." They can? What kind of a reporter are you?

0:11 A cryptic dream comes to Keats in his sleep: "Want to know more, seek the pub." Wait, did I say cryptic? I meant really freaking straightforward.

0:14 All right, so where's this pub. Hmm, it seems to be the first house I stumble upon. Some ghostly images appear in a cut scene. They seem to know me and greet me less-than-warmly. "You speak lucidly for figments of the imagination." Heh. "Go to the netherworld and seek the dead." Will do, random figments!

0:16 Finally some real interactivity, by which I mean wandering around the pub for some extremely expository conversations with the patrons. Keats seems extremely nonplussed talking to ugly monsters of all shapes and sizes. Also, he's quite the gentleman and walks inside the establishment instead of running. I like this small concession to normal human behavior.

0:19 Oh, goodie, it had been too long since the last cut scene. Really, three minutes in a row of good old-fashioned direct control is all I need, thanks. Anyway, an invisible man in a Phantom of the Opera mask meets me outside. He says I should interview the dead. That would make this mystery pretty easy, yeah...

0:20 So far, the stifling linearity is really getting to me. If I try to deviate from the path the game gives me even a little -- entering a house instead of heading directly to the South Henge portal, for instance -- Keats pops up and says, essentially, "I should go to the South Henge." I know it's only been 20 minutes, but I hope the game opens up a bit. Otherwise it would probably be better (and shorter) as a movie.

0:24 What... the...hell. Keats has transformed into some sort of white-haired, white-skinned, shirtless, musclebound oaf with tribal tattoos for a few seconds. Then he's back to normal. "This is certainly a lucid dream," he quips. That's one way to put it, yeah...

0:26 Apparently, now I have the power to do battle in the netherworld. I take the only path available and go through mystical portal No. 2 into the lush world of the feary realm. "I know this can't be a dream because I don't have this good of an imagination." Sounds like the developers patting themselves on the back to me.

0:28 OK... more wandering and talking to folks on a linear path, only know my expository conversation companions are faeries now. I'm warned about aggressive "folks," devolved dead souls who might do me harm. Well let's see them already! Anythings better than this random, drawn-out backstory crap. It was enchanting at first, now it's just irritatingly arbitrary and overly direct.

0:32 Thank the lord, a battle. I can attack and block. Whoo. I'm a little shocked that all this set up was for what so far seems to be a pretty standard beat-'em-up. At least Streets of Rage didn't make me sit through a half hour of meandering world-building.

0:36 First wave of enemies complete. I didn't have to block once. There was some mumbo-jumbo about collecting souls and "karma" abilities and such, but the game is going to have to show me more pretty fast to keep my interest.

0:38 I finally bump into Ellen again. With her dead mother, who attacks her daughter. But wait. It isn't her mother... just someone named Regine. She says she didn't call Keats either. Y'know, I'm quickly caring less and less who actually made the call, and also having trouble figuring out why I should care about the fates of any of these people.

0:41 And just like that I'm back in the bar, now empty. Regine told me to find a note hidden in a ceramic doll and show it to her daughter. Guess I know what I'll be doing next then.

0:42 Back to the character select screen. I feel like the game is trying to be Indigo Prophecy, with characters that have conflicting motivations and intertwining plots. So far, though, it seems like two disparate narratives were just strung together clumsily. We'll see.

0:44 Ellen's prologue starts with the same exact scene we saw at minute seven. At least I can skip it this time.

0:45 "My mother fell from a cliff? I need to hurry to the beach." This isn't even a thought balloon. She freakin' SAYS THIS even though there is NO ONE AROUND.

0:47 Upon not finding her mother, Ellen collapses on the beach. She awakes in a bed hearing a voice tell her to come to the pub.

0:48 When I save, I notice that the "play time" so far is ten minutes. Take away another ten for typing up what you've read so far, and that means 28 minutes of "story" for ten of "play" so far. That's not an inspiring ratio, as far as I'm concerned.

0:50 St least this time I know exactly where the pub is.

0:51 Ellen is led to the netherworld by a scarecrow-looking demon named... Scarecrow. Wow. What an original name!

0:52 And so I walk south the the Henge again. This is seeming awfully familiar, emphasis on the awfully. Isn't the point of having two characters that they might experience the story in slightly different ways?

0:54 "Put on the cloak of sidhe and you can meet the dead." So she does. And now she's wearing... a slightly different jacket. WHOA! My mind is blown.

0:56 I quickly learn to skip the talking to people/faerys, as they say the exact same thing to Ellen that they did to Keats.

0:58 Just like Keats, Ellen's first battle consists mainly of mashing square. What's more, I can skip it altogether and just move on by running past the bad guys. I don't know why I'm hurrying though. I already know what's going to happen... Keats saw the climactic part not twenty minutes ago.

1:00 And playing as Ellen adds exactly ZERO context to the prologue. Way to waste my time with depressingly similar quests, game. Why let me jump back and forth between characters if the outcome of one story barely affects the other? URGH!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? The story, which started strong, is turning into a jumbled mess and the painfully little "game" so far consists of hitting the attack button over and over while following a horribly linear clues. Sorry, Folklore, but if there's more to you, I'm not going to invest the time to find it.

This review based on a retail copy provided by Sony.

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