This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Lies of P and Chants of Sennaar. And if you subscribe to The Escapist Patreon or YouTube memberships, you can view next week’s episode, on Mortal Kombat 1, right now!
For more major games Yahtz has reviewed lately, check out Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, Starfield, Sea of Stars, En Garde! and Blasphemous 2, Baldur’s Gate 3, Viewfinder and My Friendly Neighborhood, Remnant 2, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy XVI, and System Shock (2023).
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Lies of P and Chants of Sennaar Zero Punctuation Transcript
It was one of those weeks for trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone, and obviously that’s why I spent half of it playing a Bloodborne clone. Which might not be in the least bit fair. I was drawn to Lies of P for two reasons: firstly the title is an anagram of “ooh me piles,” if you don’t know what an anagram is, and secondly it’s a Bloodborne clone based on Pinocchio. And what a sentence. I mean, how do you top that? A fighting game based on Les Miserables? A top down twin stick shooter based on A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu? I say “based on,” I couldn’t help thinking as I was slashing a giant mutated purple frog man to death and a snake with a spear-wielding priest on the end popped out of his bum that events weren’t quite unfolding in the spirit of the original text. Our dad’s name is Geppetto, our support character is Jiminy and the now requisite soulslike waifu character who will level us up if we fondle her titties is the blue fairy, and all that’s just name changes. We could’ve respectively named those characters Basil, Manuel and Polly and just as credibly argued that the game is based on Fawlty Towers.
And while we’re on the subject of names, I know you soulslikes all want to have your own bespoke identities, but nobody has a patent on “strength” and “dexterity” and we all know what those sodding mean. I go to level up not-Pinocchio and the stats page is like “Do you want to increase your Motivity or your Advance?” And what the hell do they do? “Oh, they improve your Fable and Legion stats.” NYUUUUURGH. Anyway, the other main connection to Pinocchio as a concept is puppets. The story is surprisingly understandable for a soulslike, although that might be because it’s pretty much the same story as Atomic Heart. There was this society where everyone relied on robot servants, and at some point they all went banana up the tailpipe kill crazy and so you have to go in and deal with your insane brethren because you’re Geppetto’s one special puppet who’s special for two reasons: you have the ability to lie, which didn’t come up that often but it’s in the title so they had to put it in somewhere, and secondly, whenever you get covered in blood or oil from your enemies, your clothes get filthy but your face and neck remain mysteriously squeaky clean. I guess we know the exact point Geppetto ran out of Scotch guard.
Piles of Wee certainly has a striking visual quality, I suppose, although about half the environments make me think I’m playing the one quarter scale model village version of Bloodborne. And what’s that behind your back, Lies of P? “Nothing!” Is it a Bloodborne-style rallying mechanic? “No it’s nothing like that! You can only rally back health you lose while blocking! It’s completely different!” I’d say the game’s much deeper when it comes to micromanaging the fine points of your chosen build. There’s this whole weapon crafting gimmick where the blade and the handle have different bonuses and special moves and if you don’t like one combo you can snap them off and jam together different ones and have an electrified stun stick on the end of a partially eaten Twix if you want. Which is all very well, but sometimes Shites of Glee contracts a bit of Sekiro syndrome, i.e., for all the different builds available there are points where one specific style of combat is clearly favoured. The only way I beat that aforementioned giant frog ecumenical snake bottom entity was by mastering the timing on the perfect parries. Dodging wasn’t a lot of help when he was pulling out that usual neo-soulslike bollocks: lots of spazz-out combo attacks that snap to your position at the last moment and have huge invisible hitboxes the size of a parking space.
So soulslike fatigue set in, as it often does these days, and the monster variety didn’t help – everywhere you go, it’s just dudes, sometimes with a dog, sometimes with a bigger dude who spazzes out a lot. So I got bored during a mid to late game boss fight against some dudes and a bigger dude and decided to continue exploring games outside my comfort zone by playing something everyone told me was like Return of the Obra Dinn. Chants of Sennaar, two N’s, two A’s, but don’t worry, the similarities to Obra Dinn go beyond the incredibly awkward title. In essence, Pants of Seymour is a point and click adventure game in which we play a hooded dude in what is obviously the tower of Babel but is never referred to as such, possibly to avoid causing people to think about Babylon’s Fall again and setting off another wave of self-harm. You stumble into a community where everyone’s talking a weird pictographic language and your task is to decipher that language with the aid of context clues, a notebook and the invisible ghost of a fussy schoolteacher who hangs over you and ticks things in your notebook every time you’ve correctly divined the meaning of three things.
So as you know I’m a fan of deduction-based puzzle games that make me feel clever, to counteract the effect of having conversations with my wife, and that’s very much the intention here. You’ll see one dude buggering a mule and saying “Bish Glongy Splom,” and then you see another dude with his dick in a wine bottle saying “Bish Wompo Splom” and deduce “Aha, clearly Wompo means drink or beverage and Glongy means horny farm animal.” But there’s also a chance they were both saying variations on “get out of my living room.” Then just as you’ve gotten this language figured out you move to the next tier of the tower where there’s a whole other society with a whole other language that places different prominence on different concepts and whose grammar places the subject at the other end of the sentence, and the whole process begins anew. I’d say the puzzling sometimes suffers from giving away too much too easily, sometimes with the mere act of testing us. Like, I’ll have drawn the conclusion that these three words mean Apple, Hatred and Recidivism, but then the newspaper comics puzzle section opens up and says “Okay, which word means Love, which word means Banana and which word means Newsagent?” And I’ll be like, “boy, I was way off.”
Still, I enjoyed how the game culminated in a final boss where you have to get some dudes from each society together and act as translator for a conversation between them, gosh did I certainly feel clever after that. I wish it was the only thing that took the form of “a final boss” in Dances With Wolves, because there are also some rather obnoxious action sequences, usually involving forced stealth of the worst kind, crouching behind a bit of wall picking your robe out of your bum crack while you wait for a gap in the guard patrol to slowly emerge. Oh, and you get chased by a gribbly monster at one point, and it’s as interesting as my tone of voice implies. This is why games as an industry needs to have an actual long term memory. Remember when it was a trend in the early 2000s to have token forced stealth sections and they all universally sucked ass? Maybe if we hadn’t been so quick to brush our teeth designers today would still remember the taste of that ass and actually apply the lessons of history. And while we’re on the subject maybe publishers shouldn’t have forcibly removed our teeth and threatened us with prosecution if we tried to continue making use of them. Or try to charge us money to get an “I was very brave” sticker from the dentist.