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Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Eye Open – A Review

Here's another thing with only one eye.

Another glulx game, eh? Well, the last one was pretty awesome so here’s hoping this one is too! It’s called “One Eye Open”. Hmmm… What are some things that have only one eye? Let’s see, there’s telescopes, victims of botched Lasik surgery, and pirates… Oh wait, no. Not another pirate game!! For the love of Graham Nelson, not another pirate game!

Don’t worry folks. It’s a Glulx game. It’s gotta be good, right?

Note: If you like having your game ruined for you via copious spoilers, I’d recommend reading the entire review. Or you could play the game first, like a sensible person.

Final verdict: Wow. Okay, so… I’m sorry about the pirate crack before. This is a really good game. Twisted, disturbing, and deeply uncomfortable but also really really good.

So I’m not a horror person and I refuse to watch scary movies. It’s not so much the scary parts that I can’t deal with (after all, I enjoy “thrillers”), but it’s the gore. Can’t do it. It’s why I don’t watch Dexter, or Tru Blood, or Count Down with Keith Olbermann. It just freaks me out. I’d be the worst person to have to rely on in a medical emergency, because I can’t stand the sight of blood.(Transcript of me helping you: “Oh? You’ve accidentally cut off your arm with a power saw? Well let me just lie down in the corner here and pass out.”)

I will never watch this movie.
This game? It’s got a lot of blood. A lot of bodies too. So much gore. So much grossness. So much carnage. I’m trying to remember exactly how many dead bodies I came across (and I know I didn’t fully explore the game world before I triggered the ending (one of many (I’ll go back later))), but it was over six. And these aren’t just little-bullet head wound bodies. No siree. These are bodies that have been empaled, folded, flayed, dissected, and grafted onto the pulsing bodies of terrible sausage creatures. These are not your typical cadavers!

So you’d think with my proclivities and the absolute horror of the game, I would not be a fan, right? Well… I do have to admit that if the amount of craft and care put into this game was put into a genre I preferred (I don’t know, something involving ponies or talking kittens), I’d probably bump it up a number level, just because there were sections that I thought were unnecessarily gratuitous, but my god do Colin Sandel and Carolyn VanEseltine know what they’re doing.

You start out as a guinea pig for science (…paging Dr. Sliss…) in a neat clean facility, and then… well, something happens. And you are basically transported to the hospital of the never-ending-horror show. You’ve already read my descriptions of the corpses, you get the idea.

You trigger this shift by using the verb “concentrate” and you will be using that word (that is, if you’re me) all the freaking time as you’re playing. Through it, you can sort of empathically connect with the memories of the people whose corpses you’re getting to know so well. So not only do you get to confront the aftermath of their deaths, but you actually get to experience their deaths first hand!

This is actually as terrifying and more wonderful than it sounds. For one, being inside the mind of each victim fills in the gap about What Happened. Second, each experience is like living out the first scary scene in a movie with you staring as the victim. The only word for it is harrowing.

Also, this hospital is big. There are lots of floors with lots of rooms and each one is replete with not only the usual IF trappings of objects, puzzles, and mind melting terror but thanks to our little “gift”, they’re also full of clues to help us piece together the back story..

There are also scraps of paper (often hidden in the most ridiculous places) that fill in the gaps as well, which was the only bit of clichéd trope-dome I didn’t like in this game. I mean the pages made for interesting reading, but it’s just that I’ve seen it many times over again, and the regularity of the page appearances in addition to the arbitrary and odd places you’d locate them definitely took me out of my suspension of belief; this in a story that, despite having admittedly impossible elements, I was completely buying into.

The other thing: it’s long. I was into the 2:45 mark before I finished, and I know that there were places I hadn’t even explored yet. Now, as a general piece of IF, who the hell cares? But due to the rules of the challenge I had to make up my mind in terms of scoring after two hours. I will say that my mind was pretty solidly made up by that point.

Why hello, Dr. Sliss!
Though one word about the ending: I don’t get it. I understand there are several endings, so I don’t know if I got the right one, or what… I mean, I didn’t end up devoured by any horrible apparition which is a big plus in my book. But I didn’t know how to interpret it. I think I’m missing something. Of course with a story like this, the destination seems almost an incidental detail. It’s the ride that’s important.

And boy was this was a terrifically spooky ride. Wonderfully implemented too. There was a moment when I was holding something particularly disgusting, and the game gave me an appropriate and amusing response when I tried to taste it. (don’t ask me why I tried to taste it (haven’t you heard of lady fingers?)) I can’t recall a moment when something I tried typing got an awkward response.

I give this game an eight. This may very well be the highest score I hand out for this comp, as this was a very strong entry. But despite how good the game was, I wouldn’t mind something a little more calming next time. Maybe a comedy to lighten the mood? … Paging Dr. Sliss…

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