As I mentioned last week, Remnant really put me off. That Totem Father remains unbeaten and after going back again and having the right mouse button not work one time more than I was ready to see happen, I’ve uninstalled the worthless game. I’m not ready to actually play a game that literally cheats. Luckily Steam took a page out of the Epic Games playbook and released a freebie that sounded interesting. The description might as well have said, “Mike, we’ve released this game for you”. What it actually said was Portal meets Lovecraftian horror. Fans of Lovecraft’s works know this is a pretty big field and can mean almost anything that’s too big to face, but at the start there is a loading banner with what looks like Cthulhu’s face, and that was good enough for me!
What we do get is a game that initially said, “go back to Remnant, you imbecile” because where Portal gradually built you up to be ready to face the puzzles, I was on level 2 or 3 looking for walkthroughs. I am all for being reminded that I’m not the smartest person in a room but to find out I’m not a smart person in a room was rather humbling. In fairness, after a few boards, the game started to come together where I didn’t need to do that and only at the very end did I have to check a few step-by-step guides, but I was feeling humbled, to say the least! In a few cases, I had the right idea and was even doing exactly what was suggested (like on a level called Intersection) but for some reason, my execution was flawed. I didn’t feel so bad with those moments because I proved to have the right idea.
At a certain point, however, the screaming starts. Things move in the water; I think they are Shoggoths but I’ve never been certain where a shoggoth begins and a merman ends. Madness starts creeping in. The game, according to the walkthroughs I’ve seen, is broken out into 3 parts. Part one: Mike, you know nothing, go figure out how to look up a walkthrough. Part two: Mike, you probably still know nothing but you’ve had 10 levels to acclimate so now start getting into the story. I did, by the way, and started playing this game nearly exclusively. This part is 20 levels long. Part three: Mike, you’re probably going to need those step-by-step guides but at least you’re in Cthulhu’s realm, so no one can fault you. Hands down this was when I was sucked in like a Mi-Go in a brain case! This lasts for 9 levels, oddly enough. (Why not 10? No idea… maybe to help induce madness!)
While the rest of the game was fun magnet-based puzzles, it was here that the story got me. Being attacked by the odd Shoggoth was exciting but when a dark spawn comes lumbering towards me and I found a way to kill it, I felt like Forrest Gump with a drill sergeant yelling across the room that I “must have an IQ of 160”. The art in the game was right up my alley too. Seeing the flying creatures made me smile – pretty sure those, in fact, are the Mi-Go. The hint of the big guy is there throughout the 2nd act but it’s not until act 3 that we see him, in the distance… watching.
The main idea behind the game was disposable and maybe a bit silly but I can ignore that. You play Dax C. Ward (clearly a loving homage to Charles Dexter Ward) who is a contestant in a game where you and other people are competing as the titular Magrunners. You only ever see them as holograms. Things go wrong pretty early on and I’m sad to say I preferred this threat to GLADoS from Portal, no matter how much I adore the Portal games. If I had one actual gripe with this game, short of making me think my IQ was 1.60 far more often that 160, is that it should allow manual saving. Some levels take some work and you get to a part where you want to try something, you don’t want to find yourself recreating everything you did before. It makes you want to scream. (You hold your tongue in case the cultists show up!)
Without killing the surprise, the final battle is not one of the style I typically despise for lack of creativity and throwing the player at a big monster that just takes perseverance. It’s an actual puzzle coupled with a fairly easy battle. The puzzle is far harder than the battle but the fun comes in trying to figure it out. And unlike most of the game, the autosaves are pretty frequent so you don’t have to reinvent one wheel after another.
I am constantly on the lookout for Lovecraft-based games and rarely find any and those I have found vary in quality. (The Sinking City was quite good!) This isn’t what you’d expect of a Lovecraft game but it’s a testament to creativity, if nothing more. The end credits also have what appears to be news footage of the mag boxes and platforms moving around a city. The most tempting thing in the world for me is to put up a picture of the Big Cheese but I won’t take away from the enjoyment of playing the game and having the big reveal for yourself. I got just over 12 hours out of the game and can easily see going back for another play-through in the future. For now I’m happy to have saved the world from madness. I did not save the world from magnets though. They are still great to play with and might bring a kind of madness of their own, but at least there shouldn’t be any cultists! Check out the trailer, below. ML