I’ve never wanted to uncork this much fury on a bunch of fictional children until now.
It says something about a game when it pulls out this kind of emotion out of a player, and it doesn’t have to do with whether or not you like the controls or graphics. It’s about storytelling, and this game is pretty good at it. It’s more creepy than scary — you’re more likely to go, “What the hell is that?” than scream in fear.
Right now, what stands out to me are the cutscenes. Not only are they very well made, but they do an excellent job of illustratiing the personalities of each of the characters without using a lot of verbiage. And the one thing you learn as the player is that this is a warped bunch of kids.
I started out in an orphanage, but a good chunk of my time has been spent on an airship. I have no idea how I got there — that happens a lot, and its one way the game messes with your head. Most of the game’s “levels” are broken down by months (timeline is 1930), and are narrated in mini-storybook form. For instance, when certain things occur, you’ll see words on the screen that say something to the effect of “The unlucky girl (that’s you) ran into the strong-willed Princess.”
You piece together who you are (and who these other kids are) as the game goes along. As far as I can tell, you’re a girl named Jennifer who ends up at a creepy orphanage that houses members of the “Aristocrat Club,” which is comprised of several nasty little girls and boys. Jennifer gets “recruited” to be part of the club. Every month, she has to provide a “gift” for the club. If she fails, so a voice says, she dies. Much of the game involves plenty of searching and puzzle-solving, lots of “find the item” stuff.
This would be irritating if not for the dog you encounter in the early part of the game. I like the dog — it can “find” where certain objects are supposed to go by following the scent, much like a real dog. For instance, if you find a letter, you can have the dog “find” where it originated from. Then, you can follow him. The same goes with keys (to find doors) and other items — one gift you have to find is a bird, so when you run into a feather, you’re golden. As you follow the dog, you find yourself entering various areas of the airship — kitchen, guest quarters, library — and eventually you run into enemies.
The baddies you face aren’t grotesque like in “RE” or “Silent Hill.” They’re just freaky — there are imps, midget goat people wielding knives … one boss battle was a screwy old man partially bound in ropes that tried to whack me with a stick. As you’d guess, Jen doesn’t exactly have weeks of weapons training — with an assortment of weapons like lead pipes or ice picks, she musters about as much power as a teen waif could wield.
I’ll have more later … I haven’t gotten to the music yet, and I’m off trying to find a “mermaid princess.” Enjoy.