Happy Christmas Eve, and happy lockdown for who’s home!
Since the protagonist of Cat In The Box, instead, was able to leave her house (even if the game was released this year…) she decided, to be popular on her… Youtube? Dailymotion? Nicovideo channel? To explore the house that days before belonged to a cult.
I, Ele, will mainly take care of speaking of the game mechanics and gameplay in general of this title, for which we decided to dedicate this specific article.
Gameplay – Elements of survival and divine chases
In general Cat In The Box is really enjoyable to play , the exploration phases are never boring and, luckily, we constantly find the tapes for our camera, so that the player does not rage-quit just to save the game and doesn’t waste precious game hours, as well as chocolate to keep the player from falling asleep on the keyboard due to the initial speed of the protagonist.
As you may have already noticed from the title and what PaoGun said, Cat In The Box is a much more “Western” Horror RPG than many that we are all used to seeing, although the girl protagonist is drawn in a more or less anime style.
But let’s go into detail, let’s start from the exploration. Why did I write that it is a product that looks very Western compared to others of its kind?
Because, in my opinion, the Cat In The Box gameplay hangs on the survival front , a typical sub-genre of the horror game that is typically produced by us in the West, compared to the typical Japanese Horror RPG we have all been used to.
The first element that makes it different are the limited objects to save and run…
Yes, guys, I know very well that Faust Alptraum has chocolate to make you run, I was explaining-
Yes, I also know CaNDLE and its anxiety-inducing candle system!
My God, let me explain…
We will compare these two titles with Cat In The Box.
The first two, or due to a bad arrangement of objects (in CaNDLE you cannot finish the game if you don’t take the first three candles that are at the beginning) or simply for the mechanic in general, create a constant anxiety in the player who will have to constantly check the level of Ca’s candle or Elisabeth’s energy.
Now, I won’t talk about how this system could have been better in detail, but I just say that in both games the anxiety of having a real game over at any moment due to the limited objects… Makes both titles simply more anxiety-inducing and with players more inclined to ragequit, if I allow myself to exaggerate. This is because they always put the situation “on a razor’s edge” , especially CaNDLE (I would like to point out that Faust Alptraum suffers much less from this problem than CaNDLE, having a discrete positioning of the indispensable objects).
Then what did Cat In The Box do?
It has simply mastered this system, giving as limited objects the speed and the possibility of saving . It was a smart choice, honestly, because you don’t find yourself in the perennial rhythm in which you risk having a game over every second and you have to constantly check the levels of something, without enjoying anything of the title, which also has a nice atmosphere.
But the effect of anxiety is still eligible , since something as vital as saving is limited. So the player isn’t overwhelmed by the mechanics, but finds a real challenge… As it should be.
If you do not use tapes well, you are forced to continue playing until you find another one of them (which is never too late, since the game has a good arrangement of objects). The experience does not come from the warnings that subsequently give you a game over suddenly, but from the consequences if you do not manage in the right way the situation you are in.
And this, for me, it makes this game more “survival” than the other two titles I mentioned . Survival is perpetually based on managing your current situation, having inconvenient consequences, but don’t give you a game over instantly…
…Like a chase against probably a version of yourself from another timeline can do.
Here, we have come to the second point of this paragraph of the review.
As the title said, I loved the chases in this game.
On a more technical level, the fact that the game gives us a limitated staminaadds a lot, as we won’t always be able to go full-speed, so if we don’t have any remedies for stamina (very rare, I have found only one of them during my play) we must learn to dose speed well… But since the chases (allow me absolutism, seriously. I’ve played so many unnecessarily difficult games that these things make me exaggeratedly happy.) have been done right, this element doesn’t make the game more inclined to give hysteria to people like me, but just adds challenge!
But besides a beautiful gameplay , the thing I liked the most is, I get out of my field, the concept of many of the chases, in general.
Many of tham have been helped, in terms of ideas , by the fact that the ancient deity evoked by the cult mentioned in the game is the cause of all this time loop…
(The one above is more of a stealth phase which I also really appreciated)
But especially those who have to do in somehow with the copies of the protagonist…
…Have become a winning element , given the almost “meta” expedient of the timelines.
Indeed, returning for a few seconds on the chases, when you get caught something weird always happens at the actual game level.
Here’s an example.
(Actually this screen change of the title happens even if you simply go to the main menu via the game menu, if you are “lucky”, but at least it happened to me when I was captured by the copy of the protagonist)
And if you click the first choice… The game doesn’t just close, or something simpler… It crashes after this scrolling text screen.
“An obliged crash, how cool is that?! That is, it’s not just a ‘SceneManager.exit’ * , it just crashes!!”
– I just got this game over, visibly excited.
* script call used on RPG Maker VX Ace to force-close the game
From here we open the chapter that ends this very excited paragraph in this review: the easter eggs and secrets.
If you check this cabinet when the first killer is dead …
And after trying to use more force, without success …
…You get the ax and then, before you go upstairs go back to this closet…
…Hmm, yeah, why it has a camrecorder and has the same clothes as us?
Oh, you will get a tape for the camera! Lucky you!
…Ah, this game is beautiful, I really don’t have doubts about this.
After our first two reviews full of hatred and bitterness (spoiler: there will be more hate later, just you wait ) and our appreciation for Purgatory, we found another gem in this year’s game.
With a typical slasher film start, with a plot twist that has around some elements of foreshadowing, at times even incredible, together with a well thought out and balanced gameplay, also never left to approximation because “eh, it’s Horror RPG anyway” and an almost western aesthetic, for us Cat In The Box will remain for a long time an important point of reference and comparison.
Hello, annoying little internet flies. Your disgusting spider from moldy houses and your slimy snake from the smelliest sewers are ready to return here in the Archives to start this new season more charged than ever and ready to release our poisons.
The first review of this site was a very pissed off with a lot of flame in the background, then we continued with another not too positive review and this would perhaps indicate that our fate involves feeling anger in life. Perhaps some of you will have got used to our attitude…
Why are we talking about it now? Simple! Because with Back To The Future we are approaching the generation of the story-telling focus!
And that is precisely why we will resume our activities by reviewing Purgatory…
Yes, it has to do with everything. It has something to do with everything.
Purgatory is a really good game that we discovered this year, so why are we talking like we’re possessed by Satan?
Understand one thing.
The discourse of videogame narrativity, how this is perceived by a fandom and many other discourses related to it … It is really a macro-theme to deal with, a tough row to hoe for us.
All the articles scheduled until this spring will cover this topic, if not all of them. Let’s say almost everyone apart from one will come across this topic, they are simply divided into three different sections because we have found a way to dissect this year’s big theme through numerous analyzes of other games, for better…
…And for worse.
What we are approaching is not only about writing, but as we have already anticipated also the history of the various productions of these games. You will realize how the subjects change from those we have presented so far in Back to The Future. The world of Horror RPGs, and why not, of independent videogame production is about to change.
Now we can finally introduce what role this year’s “Reviews” category will play in all this. Therefore, three out of four reviews will deal with games that seem to approach the structure of Generation 0, which we remember was the Generation in which each game, even before trying to emerge, tried to convey sensations to the player.
Even if it is “only” fear, everyone has tried to do it in their own way, continuously looking for a style and numerous and varied methods …
(In the pictures: Ao Oni, Yume Nikki, Body Elements)
…To try to convey something so primordial.
The reviews section will be really important at this time, because it will be our ground of comparison with the titles analyzed in Back To The Future and also with the title that we will analyze in a very special way not in a normal review or in the Back section To The Future, but in the new rubric…
So now that we’ve made our further introductions we can finally get closer to the title in question.
The game starts in a room full of corpses and blood where our protagonist falls. The design may not be the most eye-catching or well-finished, but like a good old-fashioned RPG Horror, it can introduce you to the action in a few minutes.
From the first exploration it appears to be a prison basement. Well, it is actually a prison.
The truth is that, as we will see by continuing the exploration, it is a slaughterhouse. The chosen setting was made in a very special way as the gray and dark palettes mix with the floors covered with flesh and walls of flesh that immediately trigger strong feelings of disorientation and desolation.
With the first rounds of exploration with Ele I was almost led to believe, given the scenario, that it was a sort of dystopia and for this I admit that I was a bit disappointed when in the end it turned out to be just an abandoned structure that the characters involved found themselves exploring out of pure curiosity.
We’ll know the explanation of how Enri (the name of our protagonist) ended up there little by little with flashbacks. The way in which the first flashback happens is clear, as the girl moves to the next area we see her in a different environment and with different clothes, while we are then introduced to Emma, one of the kids who will push her to enter the facility first. to make her search the place.
We said this environment looks like a butcher’s shop …
…With a machine to cut the meat into slices.
And if it’s a slaughterhouse, a butcher couldn’t be missing.
Among the various game overs and bad ends will also include an ending in which Enri will be able to get out using the tool of a strange ax that will give her a demonic status with which she can defeat him and escape.
In reality, I wouldn’t have much to say about the story, there isn’t a plot to unravel and with which I can get my hands dirty. What matters in this game is suggestiveness.
The author managed to bring to the public a game so suggestive that it deserves an equally complex plot. Even if the few events that are told to us are clear and told with transparent linearity, these unfortunately would not be enough to be able to boast the construction of a valid narrative plot, without neglecting the numerous background elements that there would be to explain and I’m not so sure that a Purgatory 2 could do so.
However, I do not totally disdain the type of plot we came across, especially since this makes the supernatural oddities that arise along the way even more evocative. With a little effort, it would probably be possible to build on a good narrative framework that can explain the phenomena we observe during gameplay without having to give up their elusive and paranormal nature.
The next game we will review we will find ourselves in front of a more interesting and multifaceted case of videogame storytelling in the clues to be grasped during the exploration of the environment …
Speaking of this, it is appropriate to leave the article in Ele’s hands.
Yes, I admit that you spent very little time with me during this article, but with you we will have the opportunity to see each other in the next ones.
You will see me, you will see me…
Good evening! Good evening! It is Ele (or EleRantula if you prefer) now that speaks to you!
What can I say… Paola has more or less summarized part of what I will say in this part of the review:
“… Like a good old-fashioned Horror RPG, it can introduce you to the action in a few minutes.”
Yes, as we said for The Crooked Man in Back To The Future, here too we have a return to the Horror Experience Generation.
But if in the title of Uri it seems that we only had a jolt of this generation, since it was mainly given by the atmosphere of the game, in Purgatory we can have a nice full-immersion in this generation, albeit in a more “modern” key.
Now you will understand what I mean, with a key question you might ask yourself:
“Why do you think a 2017 game has such great inspiration from a current of HOR-RPG that started practically in the mid 90’s?”
Guys, it will be a common answer, but just play.
The start of the game, as my sister told you, catapults you directly into the action.
No introduction of the background (for now) or of a particular situation by any means, an unknown and above all silent protagonist …
But let’s get away from those mountains of corpses and explore the place where the girl was taken so suddenly.
During the exploration, do you not hear a certain… Silence?
No precise OSTs to accompany us in the horror atmosphere of this prison / butchery subspecies, only ambient sounds and the occasional (more frequent in the early stages of the game) Enri’s steps in the various lakes and pools of blood (which, if we want be very meticulous, at the level of realisticness I found exaggerated, even if they help a lot to build the atmosphere) present … This sense of peace, also given by the fact that, in fact, Enri seems to be a mute girl (or, if not, very taciturn ) so her point of view isn’t really shown through thoughts or dialogues ... What does it make you feel? As always, I tell you: isolated. As isolated from the rest of the world like Enri, since you are locked in there with her. This completeparticipation and immersion on the part of the player in the environment and atmosphere … Does it remind you of something, longtime fans?
For those new to the Ludi Tarantula Archives, this text is taken from the article dedicated to Ao Oni in the “Back to the Future” section. We treated Ao Oni it in the so-called “Generation 0” that I am talking about so much in this review. There is more information on this in the very first Back To The Future article on CORPSE-PARTY, but even just reading this review you will have understood what kind of titles we are talking about.
So yes, ladies and gentlemen, we can confirm that in 2017 a title came out that seems very inspired by the atmosphere of about … How much, twelve years ago?
Moving on to the actual gameplay, this too is partly a consequence of this great inspiration from the Horror Experience generation.
In fact, in the game you have a pure exploration of the various environments, no precise puzzles but more than anything else a finding of objects to move forward, even if obviously you never find yourself in too dispersive environments, being the “butcher’s” sectioned into various environments always precise with some difference between them, divided by shutters that must be opened each time to progress in the game.
As they say, you don’t change a team that wins: even with this rather simple basic gameplay, Purgatory is not boring at all and Nama (author of the game) has almost always managed, especially from the second section onwards, to find imaginative ideas to let players find the “green keys” they need from start to finish.
But now let’s talk about the reason why at the beginning of this part of the review I mentioned a full-immersion in Generation 0 in a modern way. These that I will list will be precisely the reasons why this title in 2017 (and in 2020) holds up very well, despite being inspired by very old titles and while not being some kind of cult: linearity.
As I said above, the butchery is divided into various areas which in turn are divided into smaller areas (the various rooms within a macro-area, in short), which we do not have all available immediately: we have to unlock them one at a time.
Already compared to Ao Oni, where we have a nice multitude of rooms available from the beginning, or even Akemi Tan, this small element adds to Purgatory a type of procedure in the game more similar, for example, to the early stages of Ib. Ib is from Generation 1: The Character Drama.
But in addition to puzzles and traps … We have said that in this butcher’s shop there is also a butcher. In fact, this title also includes a number of chases with this very nice meat-slicer, ready to kill us (as the slasher horror films say since the 80s).
Also from this point of view Purgatory moves away from titles like Ao Oni, where the chases are random and the Oni can appear from any angle, because the chases with the butcher are all scripted.
What is to be noted is not the very fact that the player knows when exactly the butcher appears, but the fact that scripted chases are typical of more driven games and with much more “plot dictated” chases; Purgatory could handle chases like Ao Oni, since the main enemy almost never has anything to do with the story, so whether it appears randomly or just and only at certain times it wouldn’t make much difference.
But it didn’t, and it was also a good choice, in my opinion. It made it easier to create imaginative ways to escape from… That massive man.
This case, for example.
This little … “Puzzle”? In short, it consists of pulling one of the levers and going to the corresponding button (which will be visible through the fact that it is a brighter red) as quickly as possible: if the player does not make it in time, the lever must be pulled again.
Here, after solving the riddle in this quieter room and having rigorously saved before entering the door that will take us to the next room, this happens.
The player thinks: “Oh yeah, I have to do this like I did before!”
I really enjoyed this chase: many times when there are these types of chases (or even actual boss fights), they seem much more difficult than normal fights… But simply because it is very likely that the player will take longer to understand what the heck do they have to do in order not to be killed, than actually do it. And it’s… Annoying.
This chase, I tell you, was long enough for me. But I knew what I had to do, it was the actual difficulty of the chase that made it long and even at times complicated, given the added difficulty of the butcher who, in fact, chases Enri who in the meantime has to go from one button to another, from one lever to another…
So, citing this case, in short I appreciated the Purgatory chases in general, and the choice of making them scripted, which in many other games (such as Yume Nikki: Dream Diary) makes everything much more boring, predictable, and even anticlimatic, in this case it was a winner, given the general creativity there was for the game from a gameplay point of view.
Another thing that certainly makes the game more enjoyable to some kind of players, even if there are all those elements of gameplay and atmosphere of the constantly mentioned Generation 0, to explain the plot (why Enri ended up in the butcher shop, mainly), flashbacks are used in the form of cutscene, with obviously have also an alternative potrait for Enri to show what she was like before falling into that bad situation.
This scene, which you get when you are about to go to the second game zone, is also accompanied by music. There is the presentation of another character (Emma), who we will see in the following cutscenes and will be recognized for her false innocence and sneakiness, which will then be one of the main reasons (if not THE main reason) why Enri is in the Butcher’s shop.
During these scenes it can be seen that a story, however simple, is being told in all respects. There is not an introduction just to explain where we are, like in Ao Oni, but events told with potraits that also vary in expression (in some games this characteristic is absent, so I think it seemed right to say it). These are all small features that help to give a more precise context to everything we are doing with Enri in the present day and it helps a lot not to leave us that feeling of emptiness that you normally feel while playing a title of the generation from which the gameplay of this game takes inspiration.
Therefore Purgatory, for these reasons, is a really good title for the nostalgic of the Horror Experience that the puzzle solving phases of Ao Oni brought us in 2004, or even the first phases of Akemi Tan in 2012, along with other minor titles. (I take Body Elements as an example, with Kona5 as a developer) but at the same time, through some pretty good artwork and a small sufficiently logical background added to everything, it manages to be more enjoyable than other titles of the same type even for players more used to more linear games from the point of view of the storyline and gameplay, therefore also to the most novice Horror RPG players.
We can therefore define this title as “A piece of the past inserted into modernity”.
Dlin dlon, in the carriage!This will be our second review, Midnight Train.
Actually this is an old review, the second one we did. The review of A Figment of Discord comes after that of Midnight Train, but the game offate and the numerous circumstances directed us to publish in the Archives, first, just the fragment of discord – as it was later but… Details. This title is unlucky– when we had published it earlier in Itch.Io(see the comment of “tomorrowavenger”).
Well, then? Why are we reviving Midnight Train? Why pick this game?
The reasons lies at the heart of the review, but… From this point on the introduction is in the hands of Ele, the gamer between the two of us…
Mwhahahah! Alright, that was stupid.
To make you understand why we “targeted”, as a malign professor, this title we need to make a little speech here about active viewers, passive viewers, and on how both sides perceive these kinds of games.
But what do I mean by “active”and “passive”viewers? In truth, I am referring to two viewers from two different media: the audiovisual product and the video game product. Those who watch an audiovisual product are obviously a passive spectator: they can “stay there and watch” and their actions do not affect the behavior of any of the characters, as well as that of the environment etcetera, opposite to video games: for this reason gamers can consider themselves active spectators.
What does this have to do with Midnight Train and, more than anything, with its author Lydia?
Here, my sister and I took this as a case of study because it seems to us the egregious example of the phenomenon of the passive viewer who becomes a creator of products foractive viewers (we could also talk about Angels Of Death – as we will do in due course –of which the anime has become more famous. Ooh, now that’s strange…), also from the most critical point of view of the term, so we’ll analyze the errors that weigh on this game and also others of the RPG Horror genre (even if… To consider Midnight Train a horror game… Meh), precisely because of the probableignorance about the operation of a gameplay, which comes from a few experiences as an active viewer.
Unfortunately, this is reflected in Midnight Train, where you want to focus only on a storyline and almost not at all on the gameplay… Despite being the RPG Horror a video game!
And this makes me ask a million-dollar question to all of you creators, not creators, or even future creators on RPG Maker, since we talk about this tool here:
RPG Maker for what was it created?
It seems an idiotic question, but from some you will find an answer, from others another answer.
There will be videogamers who will answer: well, to create mainly third-person role-playing games!
And we all agree on this.
But there will also be people, those who have always been passive spectators, mainly, who will say:
“RPG Maker is a good tool for telling your own stories!“
If I can be honest, this sentence really makes me lose my cool, and I have heard it too many times from a lot people who wanted to throw themselves into the current only with their “stories”, and who wanted to exploit the tool because it was simple.
In a video game, not just a story is told, nor is it told as in an audiovisual product. With a video game you can do much more: certain game mechanics connected to the plot to give the “wow” effect to the player, to make him say “whoa cool, do I have to do it?” Or “oh God, do I have to do it.. ?! “(I quote the” interactive abortion “of the American version of South Park: Stick of Truth), or even mix it with the characterization of the characters if during the story in some moments of stalemate you can know them better (The Confidants of Persona are one of the most common cases) and many, many other things that make the player feel an integral part of the experience, to have a more direct relationship between game and spectator!
Surely the video game is increasingly rediscovering itself as a child of the audiovisual product, but it can never ever replace that.
Returning now to Midnight Train, and because its gameplay cannot be defended.
I am the first to love mainly narrative games and even visual novels, but here we must consider many things, but mainly the genre.
Many narrative games and indeed with little gameplay are “defended” by the genre they point to; perfect cases are also classic visual novels, whose narrative is based on their “gameplay”, but also interactive dramas such as Telltale games.
There, a player already makes expectations, knows more or less the pace of the game, and above all knows how much “he has to play” and how much he must immerse himself in history.
There is a “but”.
First of all: even in visual novels (which, even compared to interactive dramas, there is also objectively even less gameplay) you, player, have decision-making power from the choice of the routes in romantic or similar VNs (take Doki Doki Literature Club, for example), or actual phases of gameplay, (let’s take the investigation phases and Class Trial of Danganronpa). In short …While diving a lot, the player still does something without taking anything away from the plot, and indeed intersecting these phases to it! Midnight Train didn’t do it, but we talk better about it in the review. Let’s start by saying that the various difficulties to overcome in the game are not directly related in a certain way to the plot… But they seem a mere outline!
There is a reason for this, though.
Unfortunately, from what we have noticed, especially the current of Horror RPGs is mainly followed by passive viewers, even though those are video games.
Thanks to the youtubers, mainly, they were able to approach these titles, for example, of anime, TV series, movies, etc., because even if the videos talk about video games… The spectators are always passive, because someone else plays.
So they started to evaluate Horror RPGs as if they were just their stories, as if they were for example an anime (how many times have attempts been made to make Ib‘s cutscene animated, for example?) or similar, but this thanks also to a gameplay that in many cases (including two of the “masters” Ib and Mad Father) was closely linked to history and environments, therefore indivisible from it, and also an integral part of the atmospheres.
This “video gaming devaluation” of the RPG Horror, this almost only lowering it to “a good story” and it has just led to this: people who have never been gamers who “pretend” to make products for gamers.
And we assume that Midnight Train was also born.
“Ok, what proof do you have?”
In this regard, before having the actual review speak, I would like to examine three particular cases, my personal “3 steps of grief” for this title.
3-We are on the lowest step, the pain affects little and we can still live:
In the game, at some point, you will find a diary probably belonging to a dead girl in that structure. So our two protagonists, Neil and Luna, take it.
It will be useful during the deduction phase with Neil, and this is also fine: to explain a certain thing it took a special test; you have more or less integrated an object that you take in the gameplay in a plot scene.
The question is that the act of taking the diary is generally forced: there is always the same problem! If you do not take it you do not even have margin of error during the deduction as it can happen in a L.A. Noire, for example: if you don’t have enough proof, you blame the wrong person, or you can blame the right one but you don’t have enough proof, and you have a lower grade at the end … In short: either you take it at that time and you take it by force, or you can’t go ahead! I would have done this: you can take it or leave it there, and maybe during the deduction Neil warns you that you probably haven’t checked the areas well and there the player says “ah, here you need the diary!” And so on with a free investigative phase!
But, as always in these cases, we have only scraped the tip of the iceberg.
2-We are in an average phase, the general gameplay: the pain is annoying and we trudge a little to bear it, but it always makes itself felt… And it sucks.
Also because this problem afflicts every single phase in which puzzles must be solved: it is the speech I did before, the gameplay in this game is only an accessory to prevent the player from falling asleep on the keyboard: there are or there are no puzzles is the same thing, the story goes on anyway! The phases of the game and the narrative ones have been separated like the egg white from the egg!
This particular moment in the game has triggered atomic explosions without warning in various unspecified parts of the world. More and more victims occur on Earth whenever these short seconds appear to the player.
I explain better why these apocalyptic consequences.
Do you see that X in the image? That’s a trap–
Ahem … Yes, we didn’t need you to say it, Neil.
Anyway, if you pass on it, game over: you are crushed to the wall by a walking pendulum clock … Let’s not… ask any questions.
Therefore, already looking at a red X probably written with fresh blood on the floor the player understands: “Ok, I have to find a way to deflect the trap, or I don’t have to go on the X: the X is a lie, the X activates the trap“.
If the player can understand it even in this way… Why the hell do a whole cutscene (activated if you go right next to the X) where Neil throws a coin on the X and WOW! The X is a trap!
But, memes aside, now I tell you something really creepy…
If you don’t have this cutscene, Neil will stop you from going forward in any way even if you already know that the X is a trap.
I leave you a moment to… To process this.
Yes! Exactly! You can’t go on until the goddamn game has shown you all the cutscenes it has to offer, regardless of how much you care or not!
Okay, someone will surely ask – I already see you with the keyboard ready, ya guys-:
“If some players in that part don’t die, how do they understand that the clock is dangerous?”
Simple: they doesn’t understand it. What, do you really need to understand once again that the place where Neil and Luna find themselves is dangerous? Did you really need to do a cutscene that was also treated as a main and not optional just for a damned game over ?!
Okay … I’ll return to be serious and professional again for a minute…
Ahem … So, aside from getting pissed and throw tables and going straight to the game, we have the pleasure of letting you read the letter we wrote to Lydia on her Itch.io page.
–Open letter to Lydia. Contains spoilers about the entire game.
PS Sometimes during the review, we switched, and you could read some points in first person.
Dear Lydia, We hope everything’s going well for development.
We are two partykillers who as players would like to review the first two chapters of this game.
We don’t review Aria’s Story (which has just 0 “story” – we’re allowing ourselves to use such acidic tones because we’ve noticed that you want to do a reboot, and this would be a bad way to encourage you to work better on the script). There’s a problem at the base: we don’t understand how Lewin managed to write a story based on Aria’s exploration, and especially to be there with her when Aria was behaving like a human being: in theory, according to logic, if Lewin doesn’t write, Aria vanishes or she’s standing still, no action has been written to her.
But leaving out Aria, let’s talk about Midnight Train because we think this has more potential and that you own all the cards on the table to bring something fresh into the RPG Horror (and not) community.
We’ve had numerous changes in our expectations on this game.
At first the vibe suggests a more investigative title, with a quite narrow “field of action”: focus on the events of a few characters and has as the the train as a main place.
Ever read, for example, Murder on the Orient Express? We don’t. Not yet.
But they made the film, the point is that in our opinion you could make much better use of a situation of perpetual suspense, claustrophobia and at the same time the idea of being trapped in a golden cage (we loved the train maps, indeed reminded us even titles like “Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box”, so congratulations on this ).
Instead we got nothing of this.
It has become a classic “adventure” plot with rather ragged maps, with the buildings to explore, many clichés… I mean, some of the potential was already lost here.
In Rome it is said: “Mortacci tua”, in these cases.
You made us think well until the end! The whole first cutscene in the train… Come on! 🙁
After that cutscene we immediately guessed and got most of the narrative dynamics:
-Meeting with co-protagonist (Neil) on the train
-The (false, at the end of the day) tension given by the limited time. We’ll talk about this together with the interweaving-gameplay approach.
-Diana’s whole arc, from start to finish. Here, too, you will find an in-depth look when there are the various re-writing proposals.
-It was the same for Apollo. Since his arc began, it’s only been a little more to fall into the mundane.
Now let’s do one thing: let’s take a magnifying glass and look at some points up close.
Let’s start with the characters.
Bland. Very bland, I’m sorry to be mean. I liked that she was a “beating”, quite “violent“, somewhat, very pretty peculiarity, if only she was not completely replaced by Apollo in the second chapter.
Otherwise she’s a mute protagonist, but you could give her with details a personality that wasn’t “foolishly good”. For example, for some twist spree it would have been nice if she wrote things she didn’t really think. She doesn’t even have the limit of tone of voice: she doesn’t speak, if she writes normally she can manipulate things in her own way. I’m not saying she’s supposed to be bad, but maybe do something where she has the best intentions in the world, but uses the wrong means.
You could have used the notebook a lot: there could be many nice things!
For example, if you controlled it in some particular places, Luna would write updating the information as if it were a diary that she writes while exploring the buildings, maybe she would also make some drawings.
Another thing: since the notebook was Neil’s, if you went far back with the pages you could see his notes on old cases that he tried to solve on his own.
Try to imagine it like this: why is she so protective?
It could have been that she had, in a bygone time, someone to protect, then that someone hurt themselves, maybe even died, and then in Neil she finds her need to protect, but never wanting to be more negligent, she begins to protect him even more morbid way compared to the one shown in the game; this would have been a “nice” defect.
We also have in mind her development between chapter two and chapter three, but there will be the whole part on the re-writing.
Pretty classic character. Boy with the dream in the drawer, but treated like a moron. And here we repeat: mortacci tua! We liked how it was shown on stage: he has a lot of doubts about his role in the world, actually, but that last CG in chapter two scared us.
He risks having a very obvious development: Apollo could teach him, in life and death, much more than the usual “I will free everyone”.
He could mature in another way, but for this you will have to read the rewritten scenes.
He gave us a hard time. Was… Sorry to say, but misthought from the beginning.
Classic detached, difficult life, but he is motivated by the first two little guys who walk to him. But the thing that bothers us the most is that despite life in the street, he did not harden in the slightest negative: come on, the scene of self-defense was very forced on all fronts for a simple question related to realism: How did he just get up and make that man fly across the gate?
This “sensitive heart” of the character is simply a cliché as old as the world, which for us never made sense and never will have. How is it possible that, for the life he has made, he always remains in him a pure and candid part that takes care of animals? We don’t find it justified enough for the kind of life he has come to: how did he develop these principles so contrary to the context in which he found himself?
It could have been, perhaps, a little less “smug”, presenting him less as the classic “cool” character and characterize it with more sincere arrogance. It would have made him a truly hateful character in the eyes of many players, and the suspicion of the protagonists would have been better justified.
Perhaps his development would have been better if treated more implicitly. He would keep his ideas, but he would have regained a shred of hope for Neil and Luna, since they proved strong, and he ends up estimating them, in a way, to consider them his peers and that minimum of hope leads him to death, as it was originally developed.
However, we would have preferred if this nascent hope had been more hidden, and not thrown out with a useless explanation.
Diana… No, we don’t consider her at the moment. Also because for now we have not analyzed her enough nor did we have the necessary tools, but it seems a rather predictable character.
The problem is that she seems rather useless, as does the arc in which she appears.
We’re sorry to say it so bluntly, but the gameplay it’s not so new or revolutionary. Exploration and puzzles (including some quite random ones), with no mechanics or particular moment that wedges. Flat enough, we have to say.
The gameplay doesn’t seem well related to the plot and context to which it belongs, but an accessory element, which is pretty serious, if you want to create a video game.
The last word was bolded because here comes a long enough speech: you think that RPG Maker is to create games, or an excuse to tell stories?
The audience, of course, is interested in a good storyline, but in a video game you also take care of the gameplay for a reason, which unfortunately in Midnight Train, Aria’s Story and even other titles by other authors, seems very standardized, quite bare and with little depth.
Since you’ve always taken Ib as a reference point, we tell you why in Ib this puzzle and exploration gameplay worked.
Everything was designed to give personality to the Gallery, almost to personify it in the figures of Mary and Guertena themselves. Think of the painting of the ant, of the mouth, and of many works by the fictitious Spanish artist who remained in your heart, precisely because of the various puzzles connected to his works: you love the Gallery itself.
See the famous scene of the giant blue doll in the doll room, there is a construction of impressive suspense: the key is not found and you have to cut up rag dolls while one of them emerges from the light, accompanied by bells of death waiting only that the player fails. It was a random system among other things: where you had found the key once it was not said that you found it the second time.
In Midnight Train the whole gameplay could be concentrated on time.
Not on real time, it only gives the player unnecessary anxiety, but maybe you could have the interface of a clock, and the whole place was designed to waste time for those who found themselves in the various buildings.
For example you can decide, at a certain point, if you give yourself a tidy up in the mirror, and the curious player clicks “yes”, but he is unaware that this will make him lose time, and therefore make him closer to the game over (which can also be a bad end, if desired). Obviously, to balance everything, even some main actions will waste time, and it will be more difficult to have it, therefore it is more difficult to continue the game, going ahead for the buildings, due to the increasingly high quantity of “ancillary actions”, or by the fact that some useless actions can always masquerade more and more as main actions, making themselves almost unrecognizable.
The same relationship with Neil could have decided the player, talking more to him, but losing more time, or talking less to him for survival: if you do this second choice a whole friendship could have been sacrificed, and for this it would have been even more emphasized the bad situation in which the protagonists are.
PS: But the scene in which Neil and Luna find the watches is beautiful, it made the atmosphere well and the music was on point. It is a pity that it is a dead tension on the spot as soon as the scene was over.
Main scenes and re-writing
Let’s go back to the plot, the one you seem to focus on.
Starting already from the fact that I do not know how comfortable it can be for you to combine in a single plot is the “organization” factor (this reminds me a little of Detective Conan) and the supernatural factor. Above all the first is generally a very difficult element to manage, due to the semi-realism from which genre plots are surrounded (in general one always ends up talking about politics when there are). If you want advice from me: stop as long as you can, or better, develop only one of the two aspects better. If you are sure about what to do, it is not important. This counts as a recommendation, but if you should even have the slightest doubt and the meat put to cook should start to seem too much to manage, I advise you to give up one of the two roads.
Many of the aspects to comment on we have already done with the characters, so we will start with the proposals for re-writing the scenes. If we propose it is not that we think they are “better”, we cannot have this presumption, but we consider them proposals to make the drama more alive.
It occurred to us as an alternative ending with Diana. If in the end she actually got on the train with Luna, a potential sequence of scenes filled with tension and discomfort would have been created, as a relationship to develop. Especially if Luna had on her conscience the abandonment or death of Neil.
The relationship between the two girls would have been complex and interesting.
“We have intelligence… Agility… And strength. If we combine our strengths, this will be very easy. Don’t you want to show that train what we are capable of? I will accept this challenge with pleasure!”
“Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day!
This day we fight!”
Was it needed? :C (You’ve already figured out the scene)
Please, it’s very stupid! D:
Suggestions on how to make it, if it really had to be there: more discreet, meaningful phrases, Apollo spurred them on and it stopped there, in their exchanges of glances, continuing to work with the busts.
…However, another saying that is said in Italy is “volemose bene” (it means “useless” or “fake” love). Here, there is too much here, of useless love. The relationship between these three could be much more complicated, and developed as such. We had in mind a particular scene instead of Neil’s Deduction, when he discovered the information about Apollo, so let’s totally forgot this thing you created at this point, and let’s go back a moment.
Here Apollo gets upset and begins to beat Neil (given the brute force that he so much boasted in the scene before), and at that point Neil has a collapse where he doesn’t care about physical evil, but he keeps repeating “I’m sorry” until he shouts it to Apollo during an emotional breakdown.
Apollo takes Neil’s tears like crocodile tears and causes him a hematoma. All three suffer in this scene.
Apollo: due to the frustration of being judged in that way, he could take it in feeling his life treated as a little game of logic.
Neil: both physically and psychologically, he is sincerely sorry for how he made Apollo feel.
Luna: while trying to separate them, desperate, also suffers on a psychological level.
In the end Apollo leaves, perhaps realizing he has exaggerated…
However his actions seemed justified to him: given also the past in the street, he thinks that violence is a good solution, and that his only mistake was just not having dosed it well.
Apollo dies as in the original screenplay, but Neil has a reason to become attached to him, and from there he decides not to take things lightly anymore, in an inner resolution that will be explained in chapter 3.
Luna is much less sorry that Apollo died. She is still blinded by the suffering of when he had beaten Neil (considering the alternative version that we proposed to you of the character, it is also much more protective), and in fact for this a conflict is created between the two in chapter 3.
Neil, while putting himself in danger, always wants to follow his principles wanting to find more and more information about, perhaps, another person stuck in that structure that is even more dangerous than Apollo.
This is why Luna cannot take it any longer and writes to him, in anger, “All right, get yourself killed again” or something like that (from here we see that even Luna loses patience and has defects).
Throughout the chapter, therefore, the player goes between the points of view of the two, where Luna can no longer write anything in the notebook, and with her all the doors are open, so that she breaks them all, even to vent frustration.
Instead in Neil we see a real growth and awareness, and this can be seen through the deductions he can make to the survivor on duty: less spectacular, more sober, like a professional detective who has respect for the suffering of others.
END OF CHAPTER 3 (We have not investigated the actual plot, that’s up to you to do it) – Returning to the train
They both find themselves near the train and enter. Luna ignores him, and goes to the restaurant car. Neil joins her, wanting to clarify with her.
It is discovered that Luna harbored all this resentment because in reality she loved Neil too much to see him with the signs of the evil that Apollo had done to him (Here the hematoma occurs).
But in reality Neil had understood the message that Apollo wanted to give him, and soothes Luna saying that by now “that hematoma doesn’t hurt”, because that is exactly what made him open his eyes.
Luna, because of her past, even if with pain she accepts Neil’s speech, remembering that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that maybe she writes to you that thanks to him she remembered him again.
At the end of the clarification they embrace each other, so here is a CG with them out of focus and the page where Luna wrote that she remembered this concept, with the page moistened by her tear.
In all this, imagine scenes like this, or your favorite scenes if you don’t like ours, with the sprite animations you can do.
Think of the characters as actors, to make the scenes memorable with all their movements, gestures, certain ways of doing that recall their characterization.
Indeed, use more sprites, so the bodies of the actors in space, compared to these goddamn CG as close-ups: a language excessively from anime that, we repeat, is to be banished according to our philosophy.
For us you are a very capable creator, Lydia, and with tidying up we think you could easily end up in the category of RPG games that we like to call “Masters”, in fact.
Good luck with your next projects.
Okay, we certainly recognized Lydia’s values, but still …
This is the first video game review that we have the pleasure, say (the nippings never are a pleasure) on Ludi Tarantula’s Archives. The title in question is “A Figment of Discord” for two reasons:
-The first is because it was an invitation from the author herself. We certainly don’t think this is a good justification because maybe she didn’t expect this style of review, even on the one hand some of the comments left around on Facebook we hope that it could get an idea about the expressive form we use.
– The second reason is that the game was taken into account for the 2019 Misao nominations and this was a factor that puzzled us, because in this way an objective (and NOT subjective) vision of the product comes into play. What we hope, although there may be disagreement in the considerations, is that this nip can be a stimulus to try to apply the method of making criticism that has already been developed in the field of publishing books and films, to give examples, even on the Rpg Maker community. Obviously who may have liked the game we have nothing to say, they are personal tastes, but when it comes to awards and nominations we take things seriously. After all, however, since last year apparently a game full of plot holes like Aria’s Story had the recognition of impeccable storytelling we could not expect much.
We would like to put this warning because of the acidic tones that might come out in the course of the review, it is in the norm nowadays to always worry about getting back right and not offending anyone in a spiral of goodwill often unjustified, but for critics we believe that these points are necessary: justification,associationand/or dissociationtowards other opinions, comparisonswith other products and examples that can better explain the arguments that will be drawn up and entertainment .
If you do not use the catchy terms, phrases that can guide the reader and capture his interest: developing charisma is necessary to capture the attention of the public and often for this he puts the product reviewed back. The critic’s is still a profession.
Among our references for method and language we have them, which are just a few of the channels that in one field or another make the criticism followed and appreciated making irony – and some with a hint of acidity – their workhorse: let’s start with the Italians, like Ilenia Zodiaco, among the most followed rubrics definitely “Libri di melma“, that is among the best titles of the publishing trash; Yotobi who has not reviewed films for a long time but his style has influenced and been loved by many people, targeting, for entertainment, indefensible films; among the American critics a special mention to Nostalgia Critic that begins to talk about the products with introductory sketches, desecrated irony and eventually a way to think in a constructive point of view, and how to forget of course the video game critics. The channel of PlayerInside, passionates about cinema, too, and this certainly adds a more critical judgment on the script and direction of many video games and generally have a very professional approach to reviews, and almost a television approach for their news of the week,Parliamo di Videogiochi and the Angry Videogame Nerd, both youtubers that make pure entertainment, but presenting all the flaws and inconsistencies of the games they deal with, because precisely they deal both low-league games ( Fraws also treats those “Of bad taste”, but we are talking mainly about the series “Giochi Brutti “) for a very long time, creating very long-lived series, the column of Parliamo di Videogiochi is almost sixty episodes, and the American creator has built what is now a season-long web series, with at least a hundred episodes, of which many of us remember the opening (at least, the end of it): “He’s the angriest gamer you’ve ever heard, he’s the Angry Nintendo Nerd.He’s the Angry Atari Sega Nerd, he’s the Angry Videogame Nerd!”
WARNINGS FOR THE READER In this review we will not be exempt from spoilers.
~Plot, subject and development of the plot ~
This part of the analysis will be managed in this way: we will follow everything from the beginning with a great summary, commenting on the logical choices that have been made. It is probable that in this part other aspects come out as directing and acting (as dubbing as in the initial clip and in the movements of the sprite) and other elements for which we will turn out to be picky and fussy.
Let’s start from the beginning…
The main title. A girl sitting on a throne with a puppet in her arms, a choice that will be unjustified and casual considering that there will be no suggestion throughout history that would suggest her as “queen” of something, neither from her point of view nor from that of the others. The artwork has a bumpy style unlike the half busts that will be shown in game, but this is a sore point that touches many other RPGs and on which we do not dwell.
The theme presents an accompaniment of five notes that follow one another and change the tone without ever arriving at a main melodic line, and it is precisely for this reason that we ask ourselves how it is possible that it was chosen as the main theme, especially when it returns in the music box: in the music boxes a melodic line is usually highlighted.
But let’s talk about the choices made in bulk that should correspond to the “New game”, “Continue”, and “Exit”: “Take a bite”, “Taste” … They are the same thing!
… If nothing else, the warnings before the introductory video are nice graphically, and we appreciated how they were made.
Let’s go to the introduction.
The dubbing. Let’s talk about it, it’s a disaster both in Italian and in English.
In Italian, however, the serious problems of expression and “falsification” of the voice are much more audible, even if in English (if you listen well) the voice really sounds … Inexpressive, but in the wrong sense of the term: it does not tell you nothing, and as in Italian the voice is very distorted, made it more “cute”. A voice actor does not distort the voice, change it, change it, but the voice is his. It will look like a small thing, but this video is the complete destruction of the dubber’s trade, which generally uses THEIR voice, but changes it, and does not falsify it so blatantly.
“But it’s an indie product, what do you expect?” I expect results similar to Sen’s voice lines in Mad Father (more than anything else we should give credit to the Vita-Chii site) Lydia in Aria’s Story (which, though not a great game, the voices were appreciable, and the author organizes real contests on Twitter for the voices of her characters), and for the cutscenes, if you want to put dubbing, I can mention Empty Sharp (another very valid Italian title) as example, with a truly masterful dubbing, even if done by guys for an amateur project!
The introduction is poorly thought out, written worse and … Really, since how much in a game there are no longer these types of introductions from the early 2000s on those online game sites that wanted to let you know in a nice way the characters of scarce platforms ?
The problem is not the choice itself: even the cliché can be considered a work of art if well exploited, but every choice must be thought with knowledge of the facts and awareness of what will be presented to the player.
For a writer it can be very important to take this “slogan” as a reference point: “show don’t tell” (which in an audiovisual product is then reflected in the direction).
A video game is an audiovisual art form, respect it. Like you did with the noise of children in the background, for example. It was a good start.
You could, however, disperse information about yourself as you explored the maps and interacted with the characters, or if you really wanted to summarize that information in a short time, why not do like “Up”, for example.
Of course, we mention the masters, who have summarized in a few minutes of film the life of a man, or “Rear Window”, in which only framing the photographs and objects in the protagonist’s room was revealed in a few seconds who he is, what he did and what happened to him in his wheelchair.
Let’s take examples right in the world of Horror RPGs.
“The Witch’s house” and the reading of the diaries as you go along the maps, in a video game there is more freedom for the author to manage information, which can be innovative, really pleasant to discover, as it was for the story of Ellen ending with the final revelation given by the letter, the first starting point with which we interacted.
And speaking of allegories? “Dreaming Mary” is an excellent title: the introduction is of few words, everything starts with the instructions given by the radio that want to suggest an almost despotic system for how information is provided and how the characters behave: they are clear, from the The first words they utter we immediately understand who they are and what they could represent, Boaris’s expressions transmit concern from the first meeting and every sentence seems built to give you the idea that this character represents something dirty: the sexual theme and the clues that speak of pedophilia are masterfully filtered by the attitudes and terms that the boar uses.
Let’s go to the summary.
Eris is a girl abandoned in an orphanage – a really poor and unusual orphanage on a realistic level, I mean, I don’t know if with so few guys she could be considered an institution in all respects, and if there really was a more important sub-plot in this regard it has never been minimally hinted at or deepened – and it immediately makes us understand that he has problems relating to others and to compensate for his loneliness he “created an imaginary friend”.
And the disease, you will say?
No, really, why the disease? How was it born? Eris suffers from solitude complexes from what we have seen, what would have resulted in her illness?
Other kids have also been orphans, but this is not enough to talk about mental disorder.
We will argue this point better towards the end, when we have all the information in hand.
Scenes in the present begin with this incipit: Eris and Millionmiles, the multicolored cat, are hungry, and let us understand that they are poorly fed in the orphanage.
There are some squabbles with the maids and then the agreement with Chantico takes place: the protagonist chooses, “for too much hunger” (but why? instead of a decent meal, without considering that he could ask Shiva for a favor as he considers him a petty thief) to give up his brooch for a treat, to be precise, and instead he finds himself with an apple.
All clear up here? Don’t you notice anything strange about issues? We’ll talk more about it later.
He feels cheated, the agreement is made, and he takes the decision to take it back in what should be “Abaddon”, his distortion of reality, and the events follow each other rather smoothly, if the other big problem does not come : the stake.
He could simply take the pin secretly and make up excuses, why get to the stake? Millionmiles?
But wasn’t it just his mental representation? What should Millionmiles represent at this moment? Suppose Eris wanted revenge for the deception he suffered.
If he wants revenge, it means that he is fully aware of who “the witch” is, he burns her to “wash away his sins” and then he wakes up the next morning.
The general panic is unleashed when it is discovered the next morning that Chantico has disappeared.
Leaving out that no one has noticed outside the orphanage – given the short distance that separates it from the place of the crime – I do not pretend to suspect traces of smoke, but at least the wood burned, but if Eris really thought totally disconnected because she would have to worry to remove the traces?
Yeah, what’s going on with Eris? Is she worried, is she feeling guilty?
Her total ignorance of murder is rather problematic: is she really only realizing now that she has killed Chantico? And we who thought it was a representation, a projection of what the girl represents for her. What’s the point of falling from the clouds now?
Who on earth thinks she killed then last night, a wicked witch totally randomly, why did she like doing it? Did you talk about punishments and sins, if you don’t realize the association you made on Chantico because then you made those speeches that would immediately become incongruent and out of context?
Hannah Arendt had analyzed an interesting question in the book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” (we talk about the historical context, but which, however, I am decontextualizing to exploit it in the argumentation), which often turns out to be the key to a psychopathic nature: these types of people generally they present a disturbance at the base which foresees the lack of empathy for the nature of the neighbor and they see it as an object, an instrument, or any representation that precludes even the only conception that can be its peer.
Eris wanted to be a representation of this disorder? The answer is unknown, confused.
The first act is concluded, making us understand that the division into chapters of history depends on the various murders that will be committed.
We then have the second murder, Sol.
We will only make a mention to the various endings: we think it is better to treat them in the part dedicated to gameplay, here we can only consider the boredom and the tremendous and false goodness that they cover, a special mention for the finale in which everyone remains alive.
“Oh, tiny sprouts! So we all knew that Moloch is a dirty villain? “ “Oh yes! Really?!” “Oh golly, how many years did we spend the five of us in the dark, without know anything!“ “But why don’t we go against him now, running to defame him in the middle of the village?!”
Well, well, let’s get back to the main storyline.
The murder of Sol takes place with a certain bitterness: she seems to know what Eris has done, so I think the need to kill her is well justified even though she promised not to reveal anything: it is legitimate to suspect whether she will keep the word or not, if the act of leaving her alive would cause trouble.
Let’s bring up the continual anatomical errors in the CG, which should be the “mother scenes” of the game. This title has been awarded for the drawings, they say.
The deaths follow each other in a natural way, or better, what remains: the very unlucky Mani.
His death is a suicide request, but before arriving at the end of the first part of the game we want to make a special mention to Glenn: how useless can his appearance be? It is a random way to justify its presence in the second part of the story, because it is completely normal that a stranger in a quiet walk decides, by chance, to inflict himself in an orphanage through a breach in the wall.
Breach, remember, kindly offered by Shiva: what genius, what mastery, why try to climb over the gates when you can be more suspicious and noisy when trying to smash a wall?
Another special mention goes to the Eris’ falcon eyes when in the realistic dialogue with Glenn – in which she prefers to tease him about his clothing rather than worry that a stranger cabbage has entered the structure – he thinks to himself “Oh, by how much time is that there this breach?”. She had never noticed it.
The point is that in RPG Maker the vision of the map is generally total, the player is able to notice everything, there is no gaze guided as in the cinema, so we consider that we follow Eris’s point of view: it is really possible that we wander around around for the map or just turning the head has never noticed a hole like that?
We also remember fondly the scene of when she dumped Glenn on the spot, without even worrying about a stranger being in the structure: she ignores him and leaves him there. Fantastic, nobody cares in that orphanage if Glenn could be a thief, a maniac.
But back to Mani’s suicide.
What we know about the character is that he is a sensitive person – obviously -, unlucky and hoping for a rapprochement with his sister Sol, his suicide choice came about precisely as a result of her death. This was one of the few remarkable, interesting choices that could be better developed.
Shortly after the wretch leaves us his feathers, he enters Shiva, the village punk boy, and with vivid surprise and upheaval he realizes what has happened.
Eris pushes him aside, not even the tuna takes care of chasing her, the music is always the same and the scene gives us so many emotions. But also no.
Nonchalantly, without even the slightest annoyance and diversity in her expressiveness, Eris communicates the latest events and turns them in his favor, blaming Shiva and exploiting the prejudice against him. Obviously not only no investigation was carried out on the part of the local police, but all the intent was not staged but communicated as a stark explanation between Eris’s thoughts.
“If I make them think Shiva is the culprit…”
“It’s my word against his…”
And then, what happens? Only she and the director remained – obviously the orphanage was not even closed and Eris was not transferred – our protagonist decides to let Millionmiles go, making us understand that she feels guilty, especially for the ticket she finds later in the second part of the story; and then it is recalled by Moloch and there is a struggle.
A compelling and realistic scene in which they show themselves with text messages as the bad director is hurting poor Eris.
A pursuit follows which ends with the sowing of Moloch. Who knows, maybe the old man will have had a heart attack. No really, no one knows what happened to him.
In any case in the second part of the story the point of view changes, after having had an intermezzo phrase: “I will be your family and I will take care of you”.
Well, now we have the point of view of Alys, the link with A Timeless Story and the question of marriage accomplished by necessity.
I agree, but what perplexes me always concerns the reasons for the event. The story seems to take place in modern times, if not contemporary. If Alys feels so uncomfortable about this marriage, could she ever try to find a job? The point is that we should not take anything for granted, even a brief information about it would have been enough.
Everything seems to flow very well from this point on, the exploration of the mansion becomes relaxing, if there were no problems related to the space-time relationship. Unfortunately you only want one category, you only want another one, there are many of them such in this part of the game.
One of the details undoubtedly concerns the letters, that is: we are talking about writing letters to people who in fact are just a few meters away, and who, on the other hand, decides to visit in person them the morning after the day on which the she writes these letters.
This was at least what seems to be apparent from the succession of events, because after the wedding night spent with the beloved Glenn – the marriage took place because it was indeed proposed to offer expenses to help Alys’ mother – it is not clear whether a temporal ellipse has occurred or if the events continue to take place the next morning, this derives from the great problem of directing that this product suffers.
Since she feels down she decides personally to visit her mother and had the idea of visiting Lysander as well; despite its textual words, it would have been “a long walk”.
Literally two steps away.
Now, I understand free interpretation and wanting to make this detail something smooth and not binding for the player, but the words should have been dosed differently. Or find other reasons that have led her to avoid all that time – how long it will actually be, days or months – to meet the people she cares about.
Her mother apparently continued to be left alone, and it does not seem that her desperate state of health could agree with what Glenn would have promised. Considering that Alys literally blew his own personal fulfillment, I imagined that as “the best care that can be offered” was protection from the indicated staff, yet Alys had nothing to object about the state of the mother who she died in total anonymity and let us remember that she left there. Nothing more was known about the corpse that probably after the last events of the history it will have remained in decay.
And then now Alys no longer has any reason to be interested in marriage and mansion, if he really finds himself so ill because he simply didn’t leave? Why did it actually suit her? Too bad that this character feature is never highlighted in any way.
The state of sadness and desperation of the characters makes sense when it is well justified.
And above all to think of having the ability to write means that there should be no need for the author’s justification, to feel the need to justify everything at a later time is done by those who are not aware of their work. The elements that are left to the interpretation and the elements that should be woven to build a logical plot are different things.
Let’s go back to the summary and see the new protagonist -or co-protagonist, as it would perhaps be more correct to call it on our part – who would like to ask someone for help but instead finds himself in front …
Eris? Oh man, how much hell have you grown up? It is a problem that concerns only this character: although after the pursuit with Moloch the direction lets us understand that in the meantime the other characters have passed, like Glenn himself – or Shiva who can be seen in one of the finals – have remained of the same aspect of past times.
If you consider changing character traits to indicate that time has been matched, it is quite useless to propose this disparity.
The presence of Eris makes Alys suspicious, Eris shows herself as a first woman unlike the cold and shy characterization she had as a young girl and even, asking for information from the servants, a maid informs that Eris, since she had fled, lived hidden in a room in the mansion!
Thing? Hidden in a room, really?
Why should he have? Were there any problems with the parents of his benefactor? And even if it were, once they died did it continue to remain hidden?
Or did he keep her locked up for fear that he might be a violent person? It’s a pity that Glenn never thought of it this way because in the final acts he sees himself clearly and nonchalantly that he considers her his lover.
Alys, as soon as she knows more about checking the scattered papers for the house, decides to go and visit the orphanage that was shown at the beginning of the game.
And then, what about the character of Lysander? Not answering when they knock on the door without even knowing who it is could indicate a state of great suffering which, however, is obliterated by their brief conversation in which they apologize, at least this is one of the scenes you would get if you decided to take the choice of get two finals that contain his presence.
You meet this character already in A Timeless Story indeed, but there his drama seemed to derive from a serious problem of distance, of physical distancing that concerned perhaps even in the escape in different countries, not that it remained anchored to the same village where his ex-lives playmate to throw a tantrum.
To get the Secret Ending – by the way, a secret ending from what we know should not be used to explain the main information on the story but only to add something more – you didn’t have to deal with Lysander, so we’ll continue to comment on the main storyline.
The part of the orphanage is boring and bland, perhaps it is however one of the few times – considering the story of Eris and excluding Alys – in which we try to recreate a climate that is in fact horror, even if following simple clichés. About unjustified clichés: if spirits keep their characterizations even in death, why did they want to kill the co-star? The purification took place when he performed the ritual – by the way, a small logic problem that someone else has noticed is the fact that Alys knows exactly where to dig. Apparently everyone knew about Eris’s hideout, so does that mean they died with a pinch of bipolarity?
Here, however, Alys discovers that Eris carried out the murders, and the two endings vary depending on whether or not she is aware that they are actually sisters.
If he does not know it, True Ending follows and involves the drama: after one learns of the evil plan between Glenn and Eris, having a child – for … Why should two such people nurture both this desire? Would you like to indicate that in reality they are two good-hearted characters or at least that they hide an inner sensitivity given that they want to convey affection and education to a child? This is not how the characters would be justified, but two scoundrels remain -. Returning to the problem: having a child and using Alys to do so since Eris was wounded in the belly.
Then, Eris shoots her. In this final, on the other hand, Alys makes us understand that the demon sees it too, it is still present.
So … was Alys also sick in the end? Do they share the same blood and therefore share the hallucinations?
Why does the demon really exist then insist on talking about mental illnesses in a “raw and naked manner”?
There are other masters who talk about mental illness, which we repeat is a neurological problem, it differs according to the infected area and there are various causes, for example hereditary or due to trauma
Then we have the other embarrassing ending, the “Secret Ending”, or the “It doesn’t matter if you have killed people, you are my sister and I love you the same”, with a lot of closing comment from Glenn: “What an unexpected ending “.
Ah yes, in all this does nothing escape you? Like the famous symbolism of the apple?
She has never returned since that conflict with Chantico had occurred.
The apple of Greek mythology was golden, because it would have gone to the most beautiful of the goddesses. The apple as a biblical symbol and the temptation in Adam and Eve was a forbidden fruit, in both cases we speak only of symbols with respect to something greater: man is selfish, he is not satisfied with what he possesses and he has more and more aspirations even if this involves his inner corruption.
Eris what aspiration would he have had? Satisfy your hunger with a treat. Yes, there is something wrong with this sentence.
There was talk of physical need, hunger and bad nutrition – he insisted on this point, it was considered one of the main motivations of his pact -.
There was not even a forced reminder, a little commitment in wanting, for example, to link this new characterization of Eris as an element that indicated the starting point: it was satisfied with the events that happened, because that deception was what he urged her to carry out the murders and thus be protected by Glenn living at home. I mean, hidden in her home.
It is a reasoning that draws water from all sides, in fact it speaks of recurring themes and symbols that should serve only as a communicative cue to communicate a type of message and a key theme, a narrative feature that is often commented and treated in screenwriting manuals and that films like “Dillinger is dead” have preferred to deal with irony and challenge: there is a gun that will condition the ending of the film, and it is continually cured and painted by the protagonist at home even without any sense.
Did he want to do some self-mockery? Given the uselessness of Glenn’s presence in the aforementioned scene, at least there could have been a quote to Raz Degan in the Italian movie Albakiara when he pronounced the joke: “The time of apples is over, whore!”.
~Gameplay, game mechanics and graphical matters~
And after the intertwining that the most gentle PaoGun has stripped us of, let’s move on to gameplay because, let’s remember, this is a video game, so you also have to talk about gameplay!
Surely you don’t expect a profound gameplay from a Horror RPG: for most of the games in this genre the gameplay consists only of puzzles and exploration. But the very simple one of this game… I swear I cried.
The gameplay is too guided and forced when it shouldn’t: it’s not a video game, it’s a goddamn of interactive drama! Telltale Games, get out of the way! Midori Fragments have arrived with their phantasmagorical exploration phases! Each point will be very long, so I’ll divide it into paragraphs:
The maps are botched together and, being more outspoken than they have been right now, objectively horrible, with default assets misused, and even those downloaded were thrown into the treacherous maps, not even the shadow of a screen tint, which makes all the colors of places look flat and without depth, a perspective sometimes sent to the dump, together with the whole concept of map design.
And no, I do not accept the “But the part of the mansion there were lights!” As justification. On the contrary, it creates a great problem of inconsistency in the maps: it is very disrespectful towards gamers to make maps like this:
In the orphanage phase, where one should (theoretically) know all of Eris’s character, and the whole case of his murders in places significant to her.
Are these the significant places in her life?
A green expanse with some randomly planted trees, with giant concrete blocks?
You can’t go randomly with external maps! RPG Maker certainly does not help with them because let’s face it, the assets it provides for outsiders are quite mediocre, so you have to pay even more attention to external maps, just because they are much more difficult to do!
Or how can we not mention the wonderful corridors, with stone stairs?
Here too the same problem: an enormous expanse of a wooden tile with walls always and strictly by default; yes, I press a lot on this thing because the “original graphics” of this game were mentioned. Surprise: the maps are to be considered in the graphic section too!
Going back to the stairs, their position … I don’t even really know how to express myself. I will not dwell.
It must be said, at least, that small maps are not wicked, mainly because they do not have the problem of vast expanses of a single type of tile.
Going to the mansion, where the maps are more “cured”.
Certainly, certainly from the orphanage phase there is a clear improvement and it shows, but from here to say that the maps are more cured, it takes.
Yes, because there is the exact same pain of every map even minimally extended in this game! This gigantic carpet, which makes it look like everything, will never stop saying it, FLAT and without any effect of shadow and / or light, since they are given only by the light of the windows (crooked and badly made, moreover), from the lights of the candelabra (couldn’t you put the same script in the orphanage? It wouldn’t have hurt those maps!) and the screen color not even so preponderant, since its task was only to make the map a darker minimum.
In short, I don’t write the big problem of the maps of this game again, but simply “cure” a little more the maps only for a certain phase of the game, as I said it is disrespectful towards the players who expect a good quality from the I start at the end of their gameplay, and that “not being good at mapping” does not justify: if a person takes this great job (because being a map designer is a stressful job and with so many responsibilities) then or does it well, or if he is not good he must learn. Maps are absolutely not acceptable, if you want to make your game public, if you are presenting a product to an audience.
Now, after that long parenthesis on the maps, let’s move on to the juice of the question, to the showpiece.
I would like to start with a lack that seems to have not only bothered me, since I also got to see the video of another Italian youtuber who complained:
the race. In fact in the whole game you can’t run. Not even during the chases, so we find ourselves in these scenes where the protagonist says she has to run … But she doesn’t run. Go around with all the tranquility of this world.
This running problem could also be a small thing, if not for the reason of this choice and the effect it has on the gameplay.
Let’s start with the effect: it makes the whole thing much more frustrating, because the movements of Eris (or Alys) are not, very basic, very fast. So you walk in the already mentioned fantastic maps with 800 kg weights on your ankles, which don’t allow you to run and which make moving extremely slow, therefore frustrating for the player. Get ready, because I will often repeat the word “frustrating” when I talk about the gameplay of this game.
For the reason of all this, I have to give a small explanation of an external story.
When the game was published on the Italian forum RPG2s.com, many users had complained about the infidelity of “stealth” to Abaddon, which we will discuss later.
To solve the problem, therefore, instead of fixing the stealth phase, the run was completely removed. I understand why: this would have meant completely redoing that phase from the beginning, because it had actually been reported that there was a problem at the base, for the stealth one.
So the running option was taken out, but the whole game was boring to play. I want to applaud the genius of this choice, really.
But this stealth of which I talk so much about problems?
It was very simple in operation, actually: the red shadows move, if they see you it’s Game Over.
The problem is how it was done, which I already understood at first glance: a radius of action has been put into the events, if it reaches that range it is Game Over.
First of all: in every stealth as it should be, enemies must first see the player, before triggering the consequence (whether it’s a Game Over, or something else).
Then, the almost random movement was the great failure of this “stealth” phase, which actually translates into a “walk and pray“. I say “almost randomly”, because the pattern is so long and with random movements that I consider it, and I also exchanged it at first glance, like a random movement. Also because you have to go, in fact, also by chance for the directions of the sprites, because they themselves … They are not very eloquent! For this reason all this stealth does not become a good challenge, but simply frustrating, above allbecause the range of action is too wide, and this makes it almost impossible to do, given also the narrow map!
There was a stealth phase in another Horror RPG, which I’d like to take as an example: Mad Father.
The “cave” phase of the dolls. Remember it, right? Every Horror RPG player remembers it. There the dolls had a precise pattern of movement, but this did not make that phase extremely easy, indeed! The difficulty was given by the radius of action, at times, and above all by the speed of the dolls to move, and in the more advanced “levels” by the length of the patterns, and this caused the players to create a strategy, based on the information they had: speed, pattern, directions. This stealth, as I said, is extremely tedious to manage, since the movement of the red shadows you don’t know, so … Go randomly, praying that they don’t really see you, that you only wanted to go and save in the only available savefile.
Exactly! In this game you have only one save file for 9 endings! Argh!
Do you know what it means to have a single save file?! The player will have this perennial fear of making mistakes, or of taking what is not the true ending, and will always be afraid of having to start the game all over again!
When I played it, this choice already bothered me a lot, because it is obvious that a player prefers to have as much flexibility as possible with the save points – you, the author, don’t know what someone might try to do to play your game: if they maybe want to test some choice or even some death in a point of the game previous to the one in which they are, even just for fun (because, you know, the video game is first of all something that must entertain and amuse, many seem to have forgotten it), it is simply cruel to leave a limitation like this to someone who simply wants to have fun … Badly or not! So, let’s add to the list of frustrating elements of this game.
And then if only a save is made, the average Horror RPG player … Without being too exaggerated, but he has a perennial anxiety playing, if he wants the true ending! It should be illegal to give a similar anxiety to poor players who do not know about the infamous finals room, which we will talk about towards the end of this papyrus.
But I only scraped the tip of the iceberg.
The real, great, masterful, mammoth-sized problem that afflicts this title is the entire exploration phase, in general.
Finally, we got there!
What a grind … And there is still so much to say because, as mentioned at the beginning, the exploratory gameplay, which should be the simplest to bring on RPG Maker … It is not even discreet. Simply for a big problem that afflicts him, and that makes everything further, let’s repeat it together, frustrating!
Let’s take an example, it will be easier.
At some point in the game, during the endless exploration of Abaddon (where, on the other hand, as soon as we arrive we will find ourselves completely in jeopardy, after all that boring and very fast pace we had become used to), Eris will have to solve an enigma in the common room (don’t ask questions), it says:
“What color were the books?”
And the player wonders at this point
“What books ?!”
But don’t you remember them? The books on the bedside table directly above the bookcase, of which we all obviously remember the color! Poor us mere mortals that we see the colors of those books only once in passing and then ignore them, thinking they are an element of any scene!
According to this game, we must remember every single element of every single map … Otherwise we find ourselves in these situations! Because in theory we had to remember from the real world the color of the books, which are treated as normal stage elements, and not as elements to remember for an enigma, and then guess it to have only this information:
“Birds love sweet food and shiny things.”
“So…?” The poor player asks.
“So you get to the most critical and senseless point of the gameplay!”
Finally we are at the focal point, which is actually very simple.
The concept is what I mentioned at the beginning of my review part …
All the gameplay is forced! Nothing is left to the player: if you don’t do this first, if you don’t activate this switch first, this doesn’t happen, even if you meticulously checked the room five minutes ago!
With this concept in mind we return to the riddle.
After having solved this riddle with a beautiful imprecation, let’s go back to blocking ourselves in the maps of Abaddon, where by now the BGM will already have entered our minds as the most annoying of the summer torments. Until we get back to the kitchen.
What is a cake doing in the kitchen now that I sifted to perfection ten minutes ago ?!
It is simple: first the riddle had not been solved, so the cake did not appear. All logical, everything runs smoothly, doesn’t it? It’s not true.
According to the game, that note about birds that love shiny things and desserts had to serve something … Yes, but actually… No.
The player remembers that in the kitchen there is nothing, and therefore it is normal not to control it anymore, so this damn cake can find it only in a raptus of desperation in which he searches again, for the seventieth time, in all the rooms … But has activated the pie switch, so it can go on. I’m sorry to be dramatic, but I’m freaking out. It does not structure this way, a gameplay…
The problem is that these huge logic defects (which in the end affect the gameplay, and therefore the entire gameplay of A Figment of Discord) are there on daily basis, in all the exploratory phases, and therefore the predominant ones in these types of games, of this title! Yeah, if you don’t do what the game wants first, you can’t even take a very innocent key, and you know why?
Because if everything had been done according to logic, the order of events would have been totally busted, because there was … Indeed, I dare say that there is really no state, a terrible job in the integration of the enigmas, then of the “Phases in which you play”, in the plot, and therefore you have to resort to these stupid loopholes without logic, which only make the game more stressful, make it more … Guess what: frustrating!
So, in conclusion, the phases in which you get stuck in this game are not given by information that the player cannot understand, but which are given, but by information that the player does not receive!
… As another example, I would like to make a special mention to them. The unique and inimitable.
Did you see them?
Those always damned stones that were inexplicably important!
Here we have a basic problem with the difference between props, and objects that are important for the plot. We have also seen it in books, right? But here we talk about where Eris kept his secret box, I don’t think he buried it so badly!
Thanks Midori Fragments.
Now let’s go back to a point I mentioned a little earlier, which ends my part of this exhausting review / slating.
Remember the endings room? Now let’s talk about it.
So, for these busy and well-kept endings we should rely on the “ending room”, which as a place does not really make sense on a logical level: what kind of room is that? Why are there doors that when opened take you back in time, probably creating 800 parallel dimensions? What is the function of the bonus room? Why should he say everything about the characters?
Why does all this exist?!
Surely many of you will already be with the keyboard in hand to mention Mogeko Castle … Well, it’s different there.
Mogeko Castle is full of these insane additions, it is one of its peculiarities, the nonsense. When you’re in that situation, so when you play at Mogeko Castle, make up your mind and think you don’t have to ask questions.
In Mogeko Castle, then, that room could very well be one of those of the castle, which as I said is full of these oddities, so a room with statues of all the characters, a kind of wardrobe to dress Yonaka, and all that already we know that we played Mogeko Castle … All this becomes almost normal, the player is used to the weird castle populated by yellow little creatures.
Even Misao, another RPG with a bonus room, had the supernatural factor to help it all.
Not here. They give you a plot that would also like to go on the “realistic”, and that does not aim absolutely at nonsense (indeed, this game also wants to be taken seriously), the places (apart from Abaddon) seem to be villages, houses, orphanages …
And in the end we find this gigantic carpet, 9 doors waiting for us and Millionmiles as a guardian to that cursed room.
And a question makes its way into my mind …
But how did we end up there?!
We cannot know it, we will only know that all those doors represent important divergences for the finals, and that if we unlock them all, the top door will open, showing the aforementioned bonus room.
Here … Instead of creating this damned room, you could very well give the player more freedom on when to save for an ending or another! These things piss me off so much, goddammit!
Because this room simply serves no purpose, and only gives useless information on the already mentioned forgettable characters, the useless origins of their names, is… A note from the author of the game. Let’s read it together.
“Hi, I’m Umi Nagisa, the founder of Midori Fragments, thank you for playing A Figment of Discord!”
Heartfelt thanks to you for making me angry, and at the same time entertaining, for a game like I had never played before. Thank you.
“If you had the patience to unlock all the endings, you must have really liked… I hope!”
… I continued it for science.
“How do you say? Would you like some anticipation on our next project? “
No! Please stand still! We’re all fine… Haha … Haha …
“I can only say that we will move away from the world of A Timeless Story and we will turn more to the fantastic realm.”
Well, so in addition to the problems of a fairly simple plot, there may be even more logical inconsistencies.
“You will never believe me, but an important clue to the plot has already been given within this game!”
I’m afraid I don’t understand. Enlighten me. Really, it’s an innocent request.
“I can’t say more! Continue to follow us on our social networks to stay up to date on current work, see you soon! “
And I also greet you, Umi, the whole Midori Fragments team, and I also greet you, poor survivors of all this slamming done with blood, sweat and tears.