You might be wondering why videogames and I have been sleeping in separate beds these last few weeks. You see, Videogames and I, well, we haven’t been making each other very happy lately and sometimes when grown-ups don’t make each other happy, they have to spend some time apart. Now, you’re going to hear an awful lot of awful things like “Daddy’s been spending all his time with that juggy mistress of his; the one that keeps him in the basement until all hours of the morning recording a six song EP with his friendly gang of un-likely troubadours. He comes home with whiskey on his breath and malice in his heart,” and I just want you to know, it’s not your fault.
With what little time I’ve managed to scrape together, I’ve found comfort in the wide and welcoming arms of a little browser-based game called Echo Bazaar. My career’s experience with the genre has failed to hold my attention, but this unique little game has turned the tide. It drops you in an oddly titillating subterranean setting that has consistently had me thumbing the worn edges of my credit card, considering spending ten of my hard-earned dollars for ten more Actions/Day. “Fallen London” is a semi-steam punk, Dickensian, film-noir flavoured metropolis full of imaginative oddities and beguiling narratives. After character creation, you escape from prison by utilizing one of four unconventional RPG stats: Dangerous, Persuasive, Watchful, and Shadowy. Your stats increase with use, the higher the stat the more challenges are available to you and the more likely you are to succeed at them. Regardless of their outcome, every course of action is rewarded with a sumptuous ration of literary swagger, where in the bulk of the game’s merit lies. Their words are a torrent of sinful drink, flowing o’er the palette’s edge, staining the weave of your crisp, new, camel coloured topcoat. The Escapist gave it their “coveted” albeit verbose Best-Browser-Based-Game-of-the-Year-Award, but mind you its not for the unimaginative given that the game is 90% text based, but if your brain has yet to degenerate in to grey, milk-flavoured mush, check it out.
A group of us sat huddled round the initially innocuous glow of my roommates monolithic, billion-inch TV with the lights off and watched as Amnesia: The Dark Descent made children of us all. If you haven’t heard of it, Frictional Games has put the “survival” back in survival horror. Armed with little more than an oil lamp and your own fleeting grip on reality, you must descend in to the acrid bowels of a labyrinthine medieval mansion as Daniel, a man suffering from self-induced “Amnesia” (Hey…) in order to find and kill a man named Alexander, as you have instructed yourself to do in a letter written by your pre-amnesiac self. The plot is revealed bit by bit, in notes and letters found throughout the castle as you play through something resembling the horrific love child of Myst and Silent Hill 2, but don’t come looking for nurse-crunching violence. You’re told early on that you have no chance of defeating the living nightmare that is constantly pursuing you and flight is the only option. Torches must be lit and Daniel must remain in light lest his sanity meter plummet, causing you to collapse to the cold stone floor, sucking your thumb in a puddle of your own lukewarm urine. Had I seen it before the Riddlethos Awards week, I’d have quickly crowned it the Most-Atmospheric without a second thought.
Hopefully I’ll learn to manage my creative output a little better after my run-in with the Tyrannical Time-Hitler that has been these last few weeks. Should anyone be interested, this is the reason you haven’t heard from me in a while. That will change.