Our lives are rollercoasters of happiness and tragedy. It’s our own human condition, to be ever swirling in the cycle of good and bad events throughout our time on this earth. Undoubtedly, we’ve all been in a position at some point in our lives where the bad experiences have weighed down on us, and in some cases it can become so bad that self destruction is the only way to cope. But what if today was the day that you faced these demons head on? To be presented with a situation so drastic that it alters your attitude entirely, alleviating the pain and freeing you from your burdens.
That is what 4PM intends to explain with its cinematic gameplay experience. And I use the word experience deliberately, as this game is more like an interactive short film where you navigate through the various scenarios to uncover the narrative. Since the story is the main event so to speak, I’ll only add that you play as a woman on the path of self destruction, harbouring bad memories and ultimately ignoring the important aspects of her present life. On this fateful day, you’ll be presented with a realisation, and it’s up to you to take the right path towards coming to terms with what has happened in the past.
The experience is presented in first person, and throughout each scene you’ll be able to interact with the various objects dotted around. It doesn’t take long to piece together protagonist Caroline’s unfortunate past, or her current state for that matter, by simply looking at the various artifacts in the first scene. As the game progresses, you’ll navigate a number of other situations from late night raving in clubs – which comes with some of the most hilarious arm flailing animations I’ve seen to date – to sneaking around the office in an effort to avoid your agitated boss. Eventually, events will come to a head and you’ll be asked to make a couple of choices on what to do. When this came about I could see that the choices were obviously meant to be quite meaningful, but the after going through my options it all felt a little too convenient. It was easy to see what options to pick in order to produce the best ‘ending’, and the concluding scene felt somewhat diminished as a result.
As a whole, the game doesn’t stand up well against tests of visual fidelity. The rich colours and presentation of each scene fit with the cinematic ideals of the game itself but there’s a myriad of issues haunting the game’s presentation from start to finish. After five or ten minutes of play you start to notice an odd blurring effect that slightly obscures your vision, making detailed objects like text difficult to read and generally rendering everything as if a child had smudged the colours all over the family walls. It appears in every scene, and it feels like an attempt to make the game more dramatic. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in every situation, as I quickly found out when having to squint really hard to make out the various notes and stickers on the back of a taxi cab driver’s passenger window. It’s an odd issue to have, but since it’s ever present throughout, it may cause some aggravation amongst those wishing to check out all of the finer details in the game.
Then there’s the odd positioning of the player camera, which is often prone to fits of wobbling and awkward angles. You’d be forgiven in thinking that a game that uses camera bobbing to help immerse the player in the experience couldn’t possibly be that difficult to cope with, but you would be wrong. When Caroline was happily throwing her aforementioned crazy arm dance moves around the nightclub, her head was on its own mission, presumably attempting to detach itself to save any embarrassment of association with its host. Whilst Caroline seems to be able to keep her head mostly upright for the remainder of the game, there’s an awful swaying motion that comes with manoeuvring around the environment that could easily be enough to make you nauseous.
I said at the start that I wouldn’t spoil anything, and I will continue to do so. However, it’s worth noting that the game could very easily be broken into two sections. The first fifteen to twenty minutes culminate into an interesting and progressive narrative. We learn minor details about the main character and her past, with every intention to learn more and progress the story to see how events unfold. After that honeymoon period is over, things take a turn for the worse as the second section takes over. The visual issues become much more noticeable when other characters are presented in full, shoving their jarring stick limbs and flat faces into our field of view whilst we sway and stumble around our office desk like we’re perpetually spinning a hula hoop. The story suffers a similar fate, with the game feeding you obvious choices that aren’t hard to predict and eventually devolving into nothing more than a conclusion that doesn’t shock or surprise anybody.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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