Review Analysis by Trooper6
General: This is a strange sort of game...half RPG sort of thing and half block moving casual game. It is about a pathetic 32-year-old man-child dude named Vincent who has been dating his girlfriend Katherine for about 5 years and now she starts hinting about marriage. So he freaks out and ends up having an affair with a 22-year-old blond sexpot who is heavily sexualized and wears lingerie in public and is named Catherine. He didn't *mean* to have the affair...and he doesn't quite know what to do or how to end it. Also, there is a rash of young men who all end up dying in their sleep. All the men are said to be cheating on their girlfriends...just like Vincent. (Uh oh!) When Vincent dreams he finds himself in a dream world madly trying to climb a tower of blocks. If he falls he dies...probably also in real life. And that sexy, sexy Catherine? Well...she may be a crazy stalker.
Graphics (5): The graphics are great. The game is done in an anime cartoon style that is refreshing and excellent.
Art Design (4): There are some really neat things about the art design. I really like the way the normal everyday people are portrayed-the casual realism of their clothes. There is a great diversity of person type...probably coming from the fact it is illustrated rather than built off of polygon models. I like the art design of the nightmare-having guys as sheep. Catherine with a C is creepily over-sexualized and ridiculous...but they is probably the point.
Voice Acting (5): The voice acting is very, very good. It is quite impressive how the voice actor for Vincent makes him a lot more sympathetic than he should be on paper. Also...Catherine is a quite menacing while simultaneously being a perky sexpot. That is also good. It gives an edge to a character that could easily be very irritating.
Writing, Characters (3.5): The characters are interesting...and they feel quite real...well...some of them do. Vincent's inability to make decisions and articulate what is going on throughout a lot of the game is irritating...but I think that is also a deliberate choice. Heroes must go on hero's journeys after all.
Writing, Story (3.5): And interesting game. As I was playing through it, many times I felt a tad uncomfortable...I mean, there is a lot of gynophobia in the most Apatow-esque man-child sort of way...which makes the game feel sexist-and I have read a few blogs that leveled those claims against it. But then I think...this game is about Vincent, who is portrayed as a pathetic problem, and a lot of the game is seen through his broken eyes. And rather than valorize his unhealthy attitude toward adulthood, it punishes him for his messed up-ness. Which makes it a lot more interesting and redemptive as a piece of art for me. So I'm still pondering the game. The last bit gets weird. But then, the whole game is kind of weird...which seems to be part of the game's charm. It is definitely not like most games. Which I think is a plus.
Music (5): The musical score is excellent. The Sound Designer took classical music and "remixed" it. Which is interesting because sometimes he seems to mean mash-up (he mashes up Holst's Jupiter with his Mars)...sometimes he means reorchestration...sometimes he seems to actually mean remixing. But it is quite good, it adds to the atmosphere and it is interesting to think about the relationship of the music to the action.
Gameplay, Mechanics (4): The mechanics are very interesting and well done. There are some frustrating control situations when you are climbing. The controls are normal in the regular view (push left to go left). But if you scoot to the other side of the tower: 1) you can't swing the camera around back to see yourself 2) the controls are reversed (push left to go right). This isn't an "error"--I think they just did it to make it disorienting. It works...but it is frustrating. Which is okay for the puzzle sections, I think. The puzzle physics are really cool.
Gamedesign, Moving Through the Game (4): It is an interesting mix between real world talking and texting, and dream world puzzle sections. The puzzle sections, like a good casual game like Luxor or Tetris, makes you want to play over and over for hours and hours. I burned through the game in marathon sessions that consumed my soul. There are a couple of sections of cut scenes near the end that are so long that my controller turned off. Normally that is irritating, but it was okay in this context. I was invested enough in the story that I wanted to know how it turned out.
Academic Possibilities (5): There is a lot to talk about with this game. Mostly about how the game deals with gender-that is the obvious place to go. But also narrative. There is a framing device that informs you the game you are playing is actually a movie on a late night TV film show like something hosted by Elvira (well...The Midnight Venus Trisha...a lady all 70s-tastic with a huge red Afro). The game thinks of itself as a horror game...that is also interesting, and colors a lot of the ways one can interpret the game if one things about it as a horror game rather than a dating sim. I think there are interesting things to think about in terms of player identification with Vincent...or not...because seriously...tell the crazy lady you have a girlfriend! I've read some accusations of sexism, and there are parts of the game that make me uncomfortable. The game is really, really hipster heteronormative...in a way that can be off-putting...but I don't think the game valorizes what it is portraying. In many ways, it reminds me of Mad Men, in that it portrays some people with problematic gender and relationship issues, but does so in order to offer a critique of those issues. Sure, some people may miss the critique because of Catherine's shiny infantilized boobs, but that doesn't mean the critique isn't there. What I'm trying to say is, Don Draper is a depressed alcoholic, and you don't want to either date him or be like him. He isn't happy. There is one trans thing at one point that I was not happy with at first glance, but I think there are far more interesting things to analyze about the game. I'd say the game is really rich and has a lot to talk/write about.
Overall Impressions (4): The game kept me wanting to play it and kept me engaged and pondering. One night I was up until 5am playing. That is a good sign (it wasn't good for my progress on putting together the syllabus for the new course I'm teaching this semester, but ah well!). I understand why people might be uncomfortable with the game...but it has got my critical-analytical brain flowing for the story parts and my puzzle-analytical brain flowing for the puzzle parts. I think all of that is a plus.
Total Score: 4.3
4: Very Good
2: Not so Good