Category Archives: 4

Game Review: The Fall

For some reason, science fiction has never really interested me as a genre.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s a reflection of my pessimistic nature — I fully expect we’ll have killed each other out of pettiness or overpopulation long before space travel becomes a thing.  Maybe that’s why, when I do decide to check out a sci-fi game, it’s usually of a dark or dystopian nature.  Something that illustrates a potential danger if we don’t keep ourselves in check.  I think that’s why the trailer for Over the Moon Games’ The Fall caught my attention.

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In The Fall we take the role of the artificial intelligence program ARID (Autonomous Robotic Interface Device) after crashing on an unknown planet knocks her human “pilot” unconscious.  ARID’s programing requires her to protect the pilot of the combat suit she inhabits, & thus she begins to search for a means to save them in the rundown factory they’ve mysteriously landed on while dealing with droids a bit too invested in following their programing to the letter.  In the end, the player will find themselves questioning if the enemies are the ones who have gone crazy, or if ARID has.

The Fall is best described as a side-scrolling puzzle/adventure game with a touch of combat thrown in.  For the majority of the game, you’ll be trying to find ways to overcome the next obstacle standing between ARID & the medical facility she’s ultimately trying to reach.  But as she progresses & continues to show signs of aberrant behavior, you’ll have to contend with the facility’s defense droids in short shooting sections.  However, these sections play out on a slower place, with ARID hiding behind cover or using her cloaking program to wait for the right moment to pop the droids in the head.


20170130175245_1Narrative: Although short & ending somewhat on a cliffhanger, obviously setting up for the next chapter of the game still in development, I felt that The Fall had a tightly contained, complete story arc.  While getting help for the pilot is ultimately the main goal of the game, the story focused less on that & more on ARID’s evolution in sentience.  As an AI, there’s obviously a rigidity to the way ARID thinks & problem solves, which in turn puts her at odds with the AIs in the facility who are blocking her from her prime directive.  I appreciated that it wasn’t your standard rogue AI story like I expected in the beginning.  None of the three personalities in the game have gone “crazy”, per se, as it is them following their programing to the most logical, if extreme, conclusion.  Their outcomes are all understandable, even predictable.  ARID, for instance, is understandably frustrated when she has to appease the domestic droid protocols to receive clearance to reach the medical facility to save her pilot.  Not only does this hinder her prime directive (the very thing she was programmed to do), but as a combat unit she isn’t “made” to carry out such menial tasks.  It’s an interesting evolution in her psyche where she has to learn behaviors that aren’t things AIs are supposed to do (such as lie).  In a way, The Fall illustrates the potential pitfalls of relying on AIs without beating us over the head with it.

And in the end, we get a nice conclusion to this part of ARID’s story even while it sets up intrigue for the next chapter.

Overall, while short, The Fall has an interesting classic sci-fi story that maintains a tight, contained focus on its story & characters.

Score: 4


HeadShotAimingMechanics: Overall, I felt The Fall’s controls were simple & effective.  Right Mouse Button pulls up the aiming mode, where you can switch between the flashlight (explore) or the target sight (for shooting).  It was easy to aim at enemies or places in the environment, although I did notice when I would enter aim mode the direction would frequently default to the right regardless of which direction I’d previously been facing.  I’m also not a huge fan of having to hold down the buttons to stay in aim mode, but I didn’t see an option to change it to toggle.  However, this is more a personal preference than one that affected gameplay, as the combat was slow enough that I didn’t have a problem aiming while holding down the mouse buttons.

Cycling through the inventory was simple.  However, I didn’t really care for having to be in aim mode to interact with the environment.  I also frequently got stuck behind cover.  I’m not sure if this was a game problem or an error on my part, but I found rather than pushing E again exit cover, I’d have to move in the opposite direction to exit.  As with the aiming, it was more an annoyance than a problem.

Being a puzzle game, I found the puzzles generally interesting, & many of the solutions very amusing.  The game definitely has a dark sense of humor at times.  For example, a big portion of the game is ARID having to achieve merits to reach the medical facility by acting like a “proper” domestic droid & doing chores around a fake house & community.  A few of my favorite solutions were offering a rotting human head (stolen from a giant slug) to a child as a protein-packed meal, quieting a crying baby by sucking them into the vents, & attaching a cable between a tire axle & a flying jenny which resulted in sending the child flying into the distance.  At times the solutions seemed pretty opaque, but I found that if I explored as much of the area as I could, picking up everything & trying each combination, I would find something that made sense.  You can’t use the wrong item.  I never felt completely stuck.

Overall, while I had some personal issues with the control scheme, the controls were well implemented with some fun puzzling.

Score: 4


20170515134755_1Aesthetics: I thought The Fall had a very nice, bleak presentation that suited the themes & setting excellently.  I think the lighting is the best part, helping to cast an eerie glow over the levels.  The entire game just felt creepy to run through.  Those cardboard cutout people were the worst.  Even though the player can only operate on a 2D plane, the backgrounds really gave a sense of depth an ambiance.  I felt the sound designs was well-done, as well, mostly sticking this slow, droning tone suited for an old, crumbling factory, but occasionally picking up with some techno music during the brief fight scenes.  The voiceacting, for all three characters in the game, were well realized & portrayed.

Score: 4


Replay Value: Average.  While nothing in the story itself really changes, there are different options a player can take, such as letting the Caretaker live or not, or deliberately failing the tests.  And once you know the puzzle solutions, The Fall is a fairly short game, clocking in at a few hours, making a second playthrough conceivable.

Score: 3


Breakdown

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Final Score: 4

Final Word: Though a bit on the short side, & ending on a “To Be Continued…”, The Fall is a fun little indie sci-fi game that takes a focused, measured look at the potentiality of AIs & the troubles such programs might pose.  Personally, the regular price is a bit high for the length for my tastes, but if you can snag it on sale I definitely recommend checking it out.

– GamerDame

Title: The Fall
Consoles: PC, Wii U, PS4, XB1
Rating: T
Developer: Over the Moon Games
Publisher: Over the Moon Games
Release Date: May 30, 2014
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Filed under 4, Indie, PC, PS4, Reviews, Wii U, XBox One

Game Review: Her Story

It seems that most of the games I’ve really enjoyed so far this year have all had one common trait: they embrace the fact they are games to offer a unique story-telling experience.  Movies & books are fairly passive, or perhaps structured is a better word, in how they present their stories.  The “proper” way to experience their story is from start to finish exactly as the writer intended.  Ever caught a movie halfway through & then have no idea what’s going on for the rest of it?  But gaming can shake this formula up.  Because it requires the player’s active participation, developers can present a cohesive story in unique ways.  Her Story is one such experience.

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In Her Story, you play as basically yourself.  Someone sitting at a computer, presumably in a police station, searching through broken bits of video revolving around several police interviews of a woman named Hannah in regards to a missing person, & later a murder.  The plot is that you’re trying to figure out the plot.

I’ve seen Her Story described as an “interactive movie,” which is fairly accurate to how the gameplay is structured.  You’re basically operating a computer to search for small video snippets from Hannah’s interviews.  Although there are several interviews, they’re all broken into snippets of maybe a minute or so length, & you search for new pieces by entering keywords that Hannah says in the videos.  For example, the first video I viewed gave me an idea to search for “Simon” & “murder”.


2893760-herstory-2Narrative: As this is a very heavily story-based mystery game, having a compelling mystery is essential, & I’m happy to report that I felt Her Story‘s story was very well executed.  The mystery, once you piece it all together, was unique & well-thought out.  But what struck me as most interesting was how the player’s unraveling of the mystery is entirely dependent on their actions.  The story’s structure remains the same, but how you uncover it will greatly affect its impact.  You might find a key clue before another player, thus affecting the conclusions you draw about what happened.  It’s hard to talk about without going into spoilers, but an example from my own playthrough was that, for the longest time, I suspected Hannah had a Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder) & that this alternate personality had killed Simon.  I found myself writing notes, paying attention to dates & timestamps on the videos to understand the timeline of the interviews.  I’ve never done police work, but it really gave me the sense of being a detective.

There are numerous small details that go into adding to the atmosphere of the game.  I know, it’s hard to imagine how a game that’s nothing but staring at a computer screen staring at an in-game computer screen can have atmosphere, but Her Story manages with its minimal presentation.  Everything just felt a little… off, in a way that’s difficult to give words to.  Perhaps it’s the welling sense that something very bad happened.  Perhaps it’s how Hannah always comes across as unbalanced and off-kilter, even before she’s accused of anything.  Even though I was just watching videos, I couldn’t help questioning myself.  Who was I, & why was I sitting in what felt like a dark, dank room in some police archive?  Was I even supposed to be there?  Why did I care about Hannah’s story?

Overall, if you let yourself get immersed in the mystery, you’ll find it a compelling story.

Score: 5


unnamedMechanics: Mechanics are minimal but work for their intended purpose.  You type in keywords to search, watch videos & can even organize the videos into a sort of save bar to keep everything in order.  There’s not really a lot to say in this regard.  Every aspect, however simplistic, served to aid in the illusion of the world the game was creating.  You even get little popup chat messages from your “coworker”.

If I had a complaint about the mechanics, it’s that the save bar feature could’ve been better.  In the beginning, I was trying to organize each video based on their timestamps so that in the end I would have a cohesive timeline, but it quickly became too tedious.  When you save a new video, it naturally goes to the end of your feed, but you can’t just drop it between other clips.  Moving it will swap the two clips’ positions.  So if you want to move a clip, you have to swap it with each sequential video up the line.  I gave up after a while.  While this took nothing away from the story, it was an annoyance.

Overall, simplistic mechanics that add to the purpose of the experience, but skip the save bar.

Score: 3


Aesthetics: As with the mechanics, the presentation of Her Story is minimal but utilitarian.  From the design of the desktop to the quality of the video clips, it felt like I was using an ancient computer stuck in some dungeon of a police archive.  I have to give a lot of credit to Viva Seifert, the actress playing Hannah.  I thought she gave a very convincing performance.  There’s a natural unnaturalness about her in the videos.  Her behavior is slightly stilted, which I think anyone’s would be while being interrogated by the police.

The game also has a lot of small visual cues & attentions to detail that help immerse players in the game “world.”  For example, two clips might show Hannah in the same outfit, but she has her hair up in one but down in another, giving you a clue that the second video comes later in the interview.  Another small detail that caught me off guard but increased my investment in the game was when the lights would flicker on my “screen”, making “my” reflection faintly flash across the desktop.  Such a small thing, but when I realized I wasn’t playing as myself but someone actually in the game’s world, it added a second mystery to solve.

Overall, the presentation is simplistic but with great attention to detail to help with immersion.

Score: 4


Replay Value: Low.  Nothing changes in the story, so I feel no need to replay the game.  However, as there is some fun to be had rewatching a mystery to with knowing eyes to see if you missed any clues, some gamers might enjoy replaying the game.

Score: 3


Breakdown

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Final Score: 4

Final Word: While it certainly won’t appeal to everyone, Her Story is a solid experience & great example of story-telling through mechanics, with great attention to detail.  If you’re a sucker for a good mystery or want to try something new, it’s work checking out.

–  GamerDame

Title: Her Story
Consoles: PC, Mac, iOS, Android
Rating: N/A (personal rating T)
Developer: Sam Barlow
Publisher: Sam Barlow
Release Date: June 24, 2015

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Filed under 4, Indie, Mobile, PC, Reviews