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Replying to Penumbra: Overture (ep. 1) First impressions

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 10:11 PM

Well, instead of starting a new topic, I will continue where I left off.

I took a break from Episode 1 in favor of Death to Spies (which you can see my review here)

So I picked up Penumbra: Black Plague not finishing Overture, which is not something I normally do, but I did it anyway. I paid $4.99 for Black Plague at Gamestop. Overall the gameplay is exactly the same, but starting off, the second episode of this series is starting off much better than its predecessor. There is a brief narration at the beginning telling what happened in Overture, but you've really got to play Overture to get the full experience. It's sort of like Half Life 2, sure you can play it without ever having played Half Life 1, but you will miss out on a lot of back story and in-jokes.

Black Plague starts out a little differently than Overture. It starts off right where Overture ended, and you wake up in a cell with nothing but a bunch of garbage around you, and you have to figure out a means of escape. Puzzles in this game are somewhat intuitive. They are much more intuitive than most Adventure games, where the things you do actually make sense in the real world (for the most part). There are times I just desperately needed to look up a puzzle solution online, but it is rare.

The game levels are somewhat linear, but when they open up, you sort of wish you were back to being linear again, because there is just a lot of different places to go and see. Where in Overture, you had to deal with dogs and spiders and other things, now you're contending with mutated humans infected with a virus (hence "black plague" though that's not what they call it in-game). The infected humans are very well designed... ie. creepy as hell. At first I thought there was some blatant nudity going on (which the rating on the cover of the box clearly does NOT indicate) but it appears as though some sort of ... tube has grown from the belly button area down and up around to the .... well it looked like a ****, but it's not. Actually it looks worse, but I digress. (If anything, show me some female mutants, for the love of Lovecraft!)

The environments start off in a hospital-like environment, though clean underneath, is coated with filth and blood which makes the place very creepy a la Silent Hill and Condemned.

Exploring everywhere is vital. It is easy to miss something, but not hard enough to make it impossible. One of the tedious tasks is constantly opening file cabinets and drawers looking for items you'll need, or batteries for your flashlight. (which, is sort of a pain, because batteries don't last very long, yet you find tons of them... so which is preferable? Finding lots of batteries and having to keep changing them, or finding very few batteries but making them last realistically longer?)

Don't let the low-res menu graphics fool you, this game is polished. I've had no trouble running this on my machine on full-quality, and everything is very cool looking. There's not much to the sounds, you'll get some dramatic music playing when you are chased, and some ambient while you're looking around. You'll get sick flesh ripping and screams, and overall very creepy audio ambiance as well, so this game ain't for the kiddies.

If you've ever played the Journeyman Project 2 or 3, then you'll know what this next part is like... Eventually, you discover that you in fact are infected and have to find a cure. In the meantime, you develop a sort of alternative personality you can hear, a voice in your head like Arthur from Journeyman Project 2 and 3, though this one is slightly more malicious. It's a nice change of pace to actually hear people... uh, person....well something talking.

As far as other character NPC interactions, they apparently "borrowed" the "Sadistically Funny-Yet-Sad Voice Over the Loudspeaker" theme that Portal kicked ass in doing, with random announcements by some automated announcement system saying things along the lines of "Viral biologists are encouraged to not take their work home with them." They're not quite as punchy and LOL funny as Portal, but they are witty in themselves and I give that a thumbs up.

Also, there is a female in there you communicate with via computer linkup that you eventually go off to try saving who may or may not have the cure.

Overall, the game is actually worth more than I paid for it, because it delivers a truly chilling gaming experience with nice logic problem solving, and horror, and action. If you are into any of that, I would suggest stopping by your local gamestop and picking up a copy.... I haven't gotten to the end yet, but even if it sucks, the gameplay is enough to warrant a buy for $9.99 (or $4 if you can grab that) :mellow:

One thing to note, I had some trouble getting it to run after it installed, but this was fixed by installing their patch.


Posted 21 July 2008 - 03:47 AM

In looking for new and different games, I came across this little item (saw it's sequel at Best Buy and looked this one up first for continuity's sake).

I've played Penumbra for an hour or so. The only thing I knew going into it was that the ending was really sort of lame and unresolved, but it had good horror/suspense elements and a good physics engine.

Running it on highest graphics settings was no problem for me. No bugs or glitches, which is more than I can say for most mainstream titles... But the loading text font and layout sort of showed me that this was indeed either an indy game or really low budget... Either way, I am giving it a shot.

So here's the basic story, you are introduced to the plot via text narration. You never hear the protagonist's voice, but rather you're reading a note from him about how he received a note from his dead father talking about a safety deposit box he inherited. He picks it up, and the letter inside says to destroy all this information... Well with curiosity being human-kind's worst flaw (and it would make for a hell of a sort game) he decides not to burn the stuff, but rather go to the place located on a map, in Greenland. (How scenic!)

You start the game out in a cabin on a ship where you can test out the physics and how the things work. Basically, rather than having an "action" button that automatically opens doors and unlocks things... you have to click on it with your mouse, and PULL or PUSH stuff to manipulate it. It's really well done. I like it when games break away from the mainstream and make things more realistic like that.

Once you pick up some gear and read your journal, you land in Greenland, and find yourself lost in the snow. So far, the game is really linear, and progress is puzzle-driven, as in you need to solve puzzles to progress. It's a different change of pace compared to "shoot x number of bad guys, pick up a key (or push a button) and move to next room and repeat" type of games. Puzzles, for the most part, make perfect sense in a real-world setting, where to get out of the snow you have to smash a hatch's ice off so you can move the handle, or use wooden beams to cross over an electrical barricade (rather than metal or you're toast).

As for enemies, you're stuck sneaking to avoid them, because you really don't get any weapons. So far, I've had to deal with just dogs, and I believe spiders ( so not for those who have phobias... or maybe it is if they want a scare!) It sort of doesn't make sense how a dog can survive in a mine area for so long, but plot holes aside, you're still stuck avoiding them, so I hope you're Thief veterans!.

Sneaking involve crouching and your screen turning a sort of purple hue. When you're hidden and standing still it becomes really pronounced and it even helps you see a bit better in the dark. It's not perfect, but it's good to know you can hide. Enemy AI is somewhat lacking, but for not having guns to kill them with, I don't mind so much if the dog's can't hear me running in the next room.

You get a flashlight, but as with horror flicks, you need to make sure you have sufficient batteries in it or you're SOL :mellow:
You can sort of see in the dark a bit so you can conserve flashlight, and you have a glowstick, but I'm not sure if that's unlimited either.

You get some narration via papers laying around. Sort of like System Shock. It works. Why re-invent the wheel?

So far it's good for if you have nothing better to do and are in the mood for a puzzle. It's creepy enough to keep your interest, while it also exercises your mind while not being overly difficult. And it's not tons of reading to go through to get the back story *cough*The Experiment *Cough!* Go at your own pace, but keep moving. It reminds me a bit of 'Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth' without the guns. The theme is very much like a Lovecraft plot where the son unwittingly follow's the father's foosteps leading a neverending cycle of death.

More as I play it.

You can play the "tech demo" free here:

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