Yin and yang, as always.
Inside: Chronology, Whispering Willows, FLY’N, The Night of the Rabbit, Millenium: A New Hope
This was a weird game with terrible voice acting (think like, early-2000s jRPG dubs bad) aggressively boring puzzle design and a nonsense plot. Also the characters were just awful. Why was the old guy such a terrible person?? My favorite scene was where he realizes he needs the snail and then in the same cutscene where he calls it back is already telling it to go fuck itself again. The most absurd part is that instead of a final boss battle you platform to the final boss’ location and somehow your platforming causes him to drop dead and the game’s like, well, he’s dead, and then it just ends. It was incredibly bizarre.
The central mechanic is that you have a phenomenally specific time machine that takes you back and forth between two exact moments in time and you can use the differences in the landscape over time to platform. In practice is was stupidly simple — go back, move a block, go forward, jump on block, go back move forward, etc. There was never any point at which it wasn’t immediately clear what needed to be done and what needed to be done was always insultingly simple. It was all the worst things about indie platformers: more attention paid to painting the background than to creating a coherent game, and acting as though its trite elements were somehow super clever.
Also, it somehow had longer loading times than Witcher 3, which is an absurd thing to have to say about a 2-hour platformer.
that voice acting tho
I’m not sure what this game was. I think it comes closest to being a walking sim, but it’s also not a walking sim, as those trade on atmosphere and visuals, and there was none of that here, no atmosphere whatsoever and some generic 2D My First Visual Novel art style. The whole point of a walking sim is that you can explore your surroundings, but this was a linear experience with nothing notable to see. What it should have been was a point-and-click, because that’s how all the ‘puzzles’ were designed and forcing you to manually slowly walk from room to room was just annoying. Between the art and the awful gameplay design, it felt more like someone’s high school project than a major release by a professional developer. This was so mind-numbingly boring that I got an hour in and kind of wanted to die, and ‘maybe I should just boredomquit’ is not something I should be thinking with a game that has a playtime of just 3 hours.
As for the story, did you know Native Americans are magical spirit shamans? If only white people could just understand how magical and shamanny they are everything would be better. It’s so hard for white people. So, so hard. For white people.
This is a game in which, I shit you not, there is a questline that involves helping a dead Native girl gather flowers to make a bouquet for the white man who murdered her because he’s so sad that he murdered her and it’s so hard on him. And then the ending of the game is the incredible revelation that white people only ever hurt Native Americans because of evil spirits!!! Without those it would have been just hunky-dory. Yeah.
The worst part is I got the sense the game was proud of itself for having a partially Native protagonist, as though ‘yeah actually my great-great grandma was Cherokee’ is groundbreaking instead of the worst kind of cultural meme. This is the ‘I have a black friend’ of social progress.
Even when it wasn’t racist, the writing itself was laughably bad. The protagonist girl finds out she has the power to make her soul leave her body and her reaction is just, “Anyway, that will be super helpful in finding my lost dad!” like this happens to her all the time. She’s so stupid she has such revelations as, “OMG white people weren’t kindly and gently taking land from locals???” Meanwhile, the game decides to dole out all story content in the form of separate in-menu text instead of like, trying to integrate it into the game in any way, which was another thing that made it feel like some first-time project… surely someone with some experience would see what a bad idea that would be for immersion?
Anyway the only good thing about this game was that I got it from Humble for free.
FLY’N is a so-so platformer that does just enough wrong and not enough right. It’s a uninspired game that didn’t really have a hook, so to speak. The controls were just loose enough that the quick platforming elements it wanted to do didn’t really work, and the level design was just punishing enough to be frustrating without being challenging. It’s also another one that thinks using words is somehow compromising the art form, so you never actually get to know what menu items mean (‘cocoon???’) or really what’s going on with the plot. I felt like I had no idea what I was trying to accomplish, and that’s the absolute worst position for a game to be in.
And yeah, the controls. The joystick was so loose that precise character movement was impossible, and the toggle for sight sometimes wouldn’t stick and sometimes would, meaning you often would try to do quick maneuvers and die because the button decided not to work.
That’s… really all there is to say about it. It was utterly forgettable in every way.
Night of the Rabbit
Night of the Rabbit is a point-and-click that reminded me why I hate this genre so much. Its absurd puzzles no one could actually figure out (how do you open a window? with a nail, OBVIOUSLY), inability to demarcate interactable objects, and ridiculous timing elements made it painful to play without a guide, because apparently no one who has ever made a point-and-click has done it with the goal of competent puzzle design. (Well, not entirely — I still rec Botanicula.) It’s one of those games where, if you don’t use a guide, the only way to progress is to try every object in your inventory at every obstacle and still sometimes none will work because you missed a tiny interacable spot in the upper right-hand corner of the very first map, because absolutely nothing about progression is logical or intuitive or fun.
The art was nice and all, but I’m so sick of games where the only thing anyone on the dev seemed to consider important was the backgrounds. Yes, the background art was very nice. It was a goddamn video game, not a MOMA exhibit.
But the game had issues beyond that. The voice acting itself was fine, but whoever mixed the lines did a terrible job. There were long pauses between each delivery, and dead silence during character animations, making each conversation feel disjointed and drawn-out. Sometimes there would just be long silences where no one was saying or doing anything and I’d think the game froze before the dialogue would suddenly pick up again. It was so choppy as a result as to be hard to follow.
And then there was a plot, which I’m tempted to call a massive idiot plot, but that implies everyone was an idiot and it was really just the protagonist. All he had to do at any point was go “Hey maybe stop being so suspicious and evil-looking and tell me what’s going on for real or I’m out,” and NOTHING BAD WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. Also I don’t understand how he literally could overhear some lizards wearing wooden masks talking about how they were going to steal the lives and souls of everyone in the town and not immediately run to the mayor going, “Holy shit you guys.” Like??? What are we waiting for here??? Literally everything bad that happens only happens because Jerry refuses to use his words.
Also, I haven’t played a game that was this much of a sausage fest in a long time, and wow was it annoying. The only people who matter at all were all dudes, including the anthropomorphic animals for some reason. There were only three women, NPCs included, in the entire game. Fuck you, man.
Anyway my personal headcanon is an AU in which fem!Jerry doesn’t cause the whole fucking world to end because he’s too busy not giving a fuck about lizards murdering the whole village.
Millenium: A New Hope
This was a really, really stupid My First RPGMaker Attempt kind of game. Humble was giving it away with sale purchases for some reason, but it was also not worth actual money, so there you go.
Anyway the plot is literally that people who live in cities are evil and people who live in the countryside are morally superior, and somehow living in a lush, idyllic woody setting surrounded by flourishing fields and wild animals is a form of oppression. The game wanted badly to tell a story about the poor being oppressed but couldn’t even manage to figure out that maybe if it wanted us to think their lives were shit it should make them shit instead of just making them whiny. The dialogue was just characters spewing laughably cheesey cliches at each other.
It was also badly made. For some reason you couldn’t walk on aesthetic background tiles, so if there was a tile with like weeds on it you had to go around it, which meant every single map was a weird frustrating maze. The character sprites and the character portaits often didn’t match — the protag portrait wears a kimono, but for some reason her sprite is a sleeveless gown, for example. A+ attention to detail.
Anyway my favorite part was the opening where the protag’s dad goes to the city gates and screams incoherently that he must see the king and then screams more incoherently when the guards are like, uh, no? And then they finally just shoot him because he’s probably rabid or something. My second-favorite part was the two sisters named Marine and Marline, because why use two names for two characters when you could save energy by only using one.