Paranoiac, Re: Kinder

Paranoiac resembles Mermaid Swamp a lot, but is much simpler (and has a much smaller area you have to search, which I liked). It’s okay, but nothing unusual.

Re: Kinder is very much a what the fuck sort of game. The story is all over the place, the message is at once blatant and confusing, and it’s got an interesting battle system held back by the fact it’s got almost no battles and interacts poorly with the horror adventure game aspects.

Paranoiac does have the usual horror game problem of not leaving immediately (although it occurs to me her perspective, of hiding successfully on the first try, and mine, of dying dozens of times until I got the hang of it, would be very different). It tries a bit to justify it, but the possibility she could’ve just imagined it should’ve been pushed harder right from the start, instead of assuming it was just a wild dog. I mean, if it was a dog rather than a corpse, does it particularly matter given it chased you all over the house and you had to sleep in a closet all night? It’s still not safe. If we were told she’d been sleepwalking or something, that’d have given her a better reason to keep acting like it was all normal. (It’d also give a possible mundane explanation for why she wanders back into her house when she finally tries to leave, rather than just that she’s possessed.)

Speaking of the hiding sections, god that was annoying. It was the same problem as The Crooked Man where I kept getting killed the very first time the monster appeared, which was the time with its long, dramatic introduction. I think a better way of doing it would have been to have it not move at full speed the first time, and probably not do the thing where you run into a room, then it finds you, then you have to get out and run into another room before you can start trying to hide. Going slower in general would be nice, as the way it’s supposed to play out is you hide until you find the one right spot (or the wrong one that kills you), and in practice you’ll just die a million times or use the walkthrough to go straight for the right one and only die a couple times. I actually liked the idea, since it’s really nerve-wracking to try to find a hiding spot before it gets into the room after you and then you sit staring at a black screen waiting to see if it finds you. But the running sections are just too punishing.

The story wasn’t complex but it didn’t have any problems as a result. The main character’s aunt killed herself, and she’s moved in to the house while trying to deal with her own depression. We learn her mother is nasty and hates anyone insane, so she’s actually exiled there, and that her aunt apparently was spending the nights running and screaming, much like the main character does when the monster starts appearing. And we learn her aunt lost a baby and was obsessed over it, feeling incredible guilt…just like the main character feels guilt for not doing anything to help her before she committed suicide. And in the end, it does manage to do a good job of leaving it possible that she was just insane, because all the supernatural events are things only she experiences.


Let’s start with the story.

You live a regular life, go visit your grandparents, and come back to find your town’s gone budget Silent Hill on you. Only you and some other kids have survived.

The game informs me that my decisions, and who I decide to take with me, will determine who lives or dies. Whoa! Then immediately afterward, I get a set party, we go to try to find a phone, a set character then dies, and Tone Whiplash Boy appears. I’m still not sure what’s up with that. It might have been trying to be creepy by having him be so jarring, but it’s just jarring and nothing else, and then later we learn that he tries to defuse tension by being silly, but he doesn’t seem to be trying to do that there either. And then the rest of the game will alternate the kids freaking out at the hideous gore or the fact the whole place is a trapped nightmare…and making stupid and elaborate jokes as if nothing’s wrong and they’re totally unaffected. This game is just continual tone whiplash. This continues to the endings – if everybody dies but you, you collect their bloody corpses, apologize and promise to join them, then chibi angel of the first kid who died appears to help you realize your dream of being a (gay/crossdressing?) bartender and then you do that.

The interactivity is actually that each kid has a set event that will kill them if you screw up, but you do get to once choose which kid goes with you. You’re also reminded to save constantly, so I could just reset if that happened and also a kid dying means the boss battle for that section is that much harder, so there’s particular disincentive to continuing without them. A big point is made early on about being and staying friends with your group, but you have no actual control over this. All the girl characters will at some point run away in hysterics and have to be found (one of the girl characters also has an attack called hysteria).

Meanwhile, we keep learning about Mood Whiplash Boy and why he did this, and I increasingly did not care. I think it’s partly that the game keeps trying to present this as a situation where everyone is miserable and no one’s really to blame, but no, it’s very simple, his dad was flat-out evil and abused his mom who went crazy from the strain and started abusing him. That’s all. I don’t fucking care the dad supposedly felt guilt for his constant, relentless abuse of the mom, because literally all he had to do was stop abusing the mom. And we keep hearing about adultery and how it’s terrible, and yet it doesn’t matter at all – the problem is not that the dad cheated on the mom, the problem is he abused her. The only thing the adultery did was that when the mom found out and tried to confront him he kicked up the level of abuse, but he was abusive and getting worse already, he’d have gotten to that point regardless. Yet half the backstory is spent on adultery and how terrible that is. Also, one of Mood Whiplash Boy’s complaints is no one would talk to him about the adultery, and seriously, the fact no one wanted to answer “What’s adultery?” does not fucking matter. “Why does Daddy keep beating Mommy?” might have gotten you two actual help.

We also have a very special message about mental illness that’s a jumble because the story is about the fact depression is real, but tries to hammer in how bad it is people won’t believe mental illness is a real disease by setting this in a story where no one at all thinks it’s possible and saying if only they lived in one where people knew mental illness was possible which okay we’ve checked that off apparently we’re safe from vengeful kids with jarring musical taste.

And yes, the jarring mood whiplash just makes it all worse. In isolation from the rest of the game, the bits of backstory we get are spaced nicely so you don’t realize what’s going on at first – first he’s murdering his dad, then we learn his dad cheated on his mom so way to overreact there, but then we learn his dad also abused his mom and that’s presumably the reason he actually killed the guy, then we learn his mom committed suicide (and that his dad wouldn’t believe she was sick) and he saw it, but then we learn his mom had been threatening suicide in front of him and he finally couldn’t take it so he shoved her himself. But it’s interspaced with stupid jokes and half of it harping and harping on adultery despite that really being the most hackneyed and most irrelevant of the issues.

The endings are also confusing. If some people die, at the end he suddenly decides he’s done with the game and puts everything back, but any kid who died during his game will be gone and no one else will remember them. When he appears, your character then murders him for the deaths of the other kids. But if you keep everyone alive, you have the chance to try to reason with him (with your fists) and the ending there is that you live but your town is never fixed and your families and everyone else remains dead. Also, he kills himself anyway. So saving everybody means more total deaths and it’s better to let someone die.

In terms of graphics, it’s just terrible.

I have no idea why the designer decided to have the main sprites be pixelated blobs compared to the rest of the graphics, but whatever the reasoning, it was a horrible mistake.

The one thing I did like was the puzzle boss fights – the kids all have different special moves, all of which are tactical, plus you can choose to give up your turn to block and reduce damage if you know a special move is coming from the enemy. The problem is the puzzles quickly get incredibly finicky and, being boss fights, always come after an extended cutscene. It really should’ve autosaved right before them, which would also force you to continue despite someone dying. As it is, it’s really tedious to work it out by trial and error. I also didn’t like that each boss fight has a unique solution and some of the kids, including the main character, have a move that’s only used once.

There’s also the endboss sequence where you have to compassionately talk Tone Whiplash Boy down, and despite my expectations and the fact some of the bosses can be beaten solely by puzzle items, by compassionately I of course mean with the help of copious violence. I spent the ending of the game thinking about how the Undertale demo did it better in every respect.

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