Get Even is one of those games that is a nightmare to review; not because of a lack of quality—in fact, this walking-simulator-in-a-first-person-shooter’s-clothing could be one of 2017’s cult hits—but because the storyline features so many twists and turns that one is constantly worried about giving too much away and spoiling the experience.
The Farm 51’s latest is a first-person psychological thriller that toys with the player from the off—providing very few details other than that the character’s name is Black, he sounds a lot like Sean Bean, and the game’s setting is unclear. (Although the writers did let slip that the opening is set 10 miles outside of Nuneaton in England.) Black’s mission is simple: save the girl.
While searching for the missing girl, the player is introduced to the suite of puzzle-solving gadgets available on Black’s smartphone. These include a map that helps him slip past guards; a black light to reveal bloody footprints and other clues; an infrared camera that shows enemies’ heat signatures and how hot parts of the environment are; and an evidence scanner, which serves a self-explanatory purpose.
After a rather depressing plod through a derelict building, solving a few simple puzzles and exploring every nook and cranny for evidence, Black finds the girl. However, as he attempts to disarm a homemade bomb that has been strapped to her, it explodes. (This element caused the game’s release to be pushed back by a month because of similarities to the terrorist atrocity in Manchester.) Black then awakes in a derelict asylum with a curious VR device welded to his head. This device allows people to relive their memories: memories that Red, a mysterious figure whispering in Black’s ear, wants to explore. The first of these memories is the time that Black stole a prototype weapon—the corner gun, an inherently cool piece of technology—from the headquarters of a major British arms firm.
The corner gun does exactly what the name suggests: shoots around corners. With the press of a button, players can turn the barrel of the weapon 90° and use the attached infrared screen to find and deftly pick off guards while remaining out of harm’s way. The weapon is incredibly fun to use and annoys Black’s handlers every time he opens fire, as it causes distortions in the memories, represented by the guards exploding into millions of pixels—a rather cool effect that begs for a wanton rampage.
This sense of fun creates a moral dilemma for the player. The shooting mechanics in the game are great, and the corner gun offers a fresh and thoughtful take on the mechanics of the average cover-based shooter. However, scratching that itchy trigger finger will negatively affect the way that other characters react to Black. In a similar manner to Telltale’s The Walking Dead games, actions in Get Even have consequences that are not always obvious at first. In fact, some are so subtle that they remain unnoticed until after the fact. Cause-and-effect systems play a large role in the game, with minor actions having wider consequences further down the line, and no good deed going unpunished. This system of consequence is one of the more interesting ways that Get Even plays with both genre conventions and player expectations. The game is a shooter that can be completed without having to shoot anyone, blurring the line between FPS and walking simulator in the best, and often trippiest, way possible.
As the game progresses, Black’s grip on reality slips away as the myriad mysteries slowly unfold and players are taken on a strange journey best described as Old Boy-meets-Inception in a dingy warehouse just outside of Stoke. The trippy narrative is backed by a strong and oppressive visual style, with environments constructed using a bespoke scanning technology that enabled the developers to use real-world locations to fill Get Even with amazing detail. The realism provided by this approach gives environments a lived-in feel, despite Black spending most of his time exploring lifeless husks and abandoned warehouses. Each space feels real, with a tremendous sense of place and presence. Any player who ever broke into an abandoned warehouse as a kid or had to walk past a dodgy underpass will be whisked back to memories they wish to forget and the ever-present sense of dread that hangs in the air in such places. The key difference is that, now, the maniacs in the dark, waiting to beat the player’s head in with lead pipes, are more than a figment of the imagination.
Backing the bleak visuals is a stellar score by French composer, Olivier Deriviere, and some of the best audio design ever found in a game. Get Even is an oddly musical affair, with every environmental sound keyed to a certain note. As the player progresses, the air hums aggressively, and the sound of doors opening and the character’s footsteps subtly add to the overwhelming and oppressive soundtrack that peaks and troughs with the player’s actions. If Silent Hill composer, Akira Yamoaka took over as the artistic director of Stomp, Get Even’s audio would likely be the result: a cacophony of incidental industrial noise, as oppressive as compelling and best experienced through a decent pair of headphones.
The ambient audio is accompanied by brilliant performances from Get Even’s small and mostly British voice cast. From the Bean-esque northern grumble of protagonist Cole Black to the the oddly reassuring voice of Red and the wider cast of crazies Black encounters in his trip to the asylum, each voice feels as vital and brilliantly executed as the last. This uniform quality is a praise-worthy accomplishment for what is, essentially, an indie game with top-notch production values.
Clocking in at 8-10 hours for the first playthrough, Get Even is a weekend well spent. Though the wider narrative strokes remain unchanged, Get Even, as with the best thrillers, is well worth a second sitting to experience the myriad eureka moments that go whistling past the player’s head in the first playthrough, but the significance of which are revealed once the story finally comes together.
In short, Get Even is one party that gamers, fans of Black Mirror, and the Nolan Brothers’ better films will not want to miss.
The Great Perhaps Review — Perhaps Not
Warning: The article contains discussion on the subject of suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling, The International Association for Suicide Prevention provides contact information for help across the world.
One common piece of advice for budding comedians is to never ‘punch down’. The target of a joke should be someone of a higher status or privilege than the joke teller, rather than a person within a marginalised group, such as the poor, the disabled, or the mentally ill. While this is not a hard and fast rule to comedy success, with shows like South Park using shocking moments to illuminate larger problems within society, without a deft hand, punching down comes across as cruel or offensive. The Great Perhaps, the first title by developer Caligari Games, makes an off-colour joke about suicide in the first five minutes of the game, setting a confused tone for the rest of its three-hour playtime. While this puzzle platformer shows some potential with solid puzzle design and great art direction, its terrible writing taints the entire experience.
The initial foot-in-the-mouth moment happens in the game’s animated prologue. Kosmos is an astronaut in a space station orbiting the earth. During a typical day, his communications with Earth are suddenly cut off, and he sees black smoke spreading across the globe. The station automatically puts him into cryogenic sleep, with instructions to wake him when returning to the surface is safe. Upon awakening, he discovers that over 100 years have passed. Kosmos is in despair, realising that everyone he ever knew or loved is dead, including his wife and children. He asks the ship’s A.I., L9, to vent all the oxygen in the ship, ending his life. She refuses, saying that the task is illogical. He asks again. She tells him to ‘nut up’ and to go explore the Earth. Kosmos reacts in astonishment, not at her cruel words, but at the fact she has developed a sense of humour. Magically cured of his suicidal ideation by her sassy insults, the pair decide to go explore the Earth and see if anyone survived the apocalypse.
Those whose lives have not been touched by suicide may find difficulty understanding why this moment is so offensive. This ‘nut up’ attitude stems from this belief that those suffering are not trying hard enough to get better—that one can just think themselves happy. Men especially suffer due to social pressure on them to not express their feelings, resulting in a suicide rate three times higher than women. Telling a suicidal person to ‘nut up’ would make them more likely to go through with their plans, not laugh. Real treatment takes a lot of hard work with support from both loved ones and mental health professionals.
This monumental lack of understanding permeates the game, although thankfully not as egregiously as the initial example. The flat intonation of Kosmos’s narration initially seems inspired, a man who has stepped back from the precipice of self harm but is still deeply troubled. However, the content of the writing actually shows that he is really cured, despite the monotony of his voice. About half an hour into the journey, he and L9 encounter a man about to jump off a roof, upset that no one likes his writing. He invites Kosmos to jump with him, but Kosmos proclaims he has ‘better things to do’. A callous attitude for a man who, within the last day or so, was in the same position. He manages to help the man by showing that his book will be successful in the future, handily sidestepping any real understanding of how to defuse such a situation. One does not need to be an expert on mental illness to write about the subject, but a modicum of research, understanding, or respect would have gone a long way. The Great Perhaps seems uncertain if it wants to be mysterious or funny. One moment, Kosmos will be lamenting the downfall of humanity; the next, he is riding an ostrich. L9 switches between making jokes and acting like a cold machine. The game is disjointed and lacks the emotional weight to support the story it is trying to tell.
The gameplay of The Great Perhaps fares better than the writing. A two-dimensional sidescroller with light puzzling, akin to Inside or Limbo, the game’s unique hook is the lantern Kosmos finds that lets him briefly travel back in time. The lantern button can be pressed for a glimpse of the past world, then held down to travel into the past for 20 seconds. For the most part, this mechanic works well, using the lantern to get around locked doors, bring objects between the past and the present, travel down a metro tunnel without getting hit by a train, or eaten by mutant rats. However, in some instances, the mechanic can be fiddly. The transition between worlds is fairly slow, so for sections where one has to swap to avoid a danger, the sluggish transition is frustrating. L9 will warn the player of a danger, but she usually warns too late for the player to perform the switch and save themselves. If this shifting function was on a toggle, rather than button press to turn the lantern on then press and hold down the button again to switch worlds, a lot of frustration could be mitigated. The time in the past would also benefit from being a bit longer. Throughout the campaign, several pipe dream-type puzzles appear in the past world, with the player needing to rotate tiles to form a continuous line from point A to point B. Getting kicked out of the puzzle every 20 seconds because of the time change was annoying.
Kosmos has some finicky movement, which is not a problem during the standard object puzzles, but is an issue in the handful of chase sequences dotted through the game. One section is set in a tight apartment building that requires him to push a cart, climb on it, jump to a ladder, jump across the gap, throw rocks to knock down the next ladder, scramble up, and run up two sets of stairs before reaching freedom. An already tricky sequence is made worse by Kosmos constantly getting stuck on objects. The enemy is close behind him for the whole sequence, so the sequence has little room for error. A bit more space between Kosmos and the monster would allow for collision-based delays.
Along with an autosave, The Great Perhaps has a chapter-based system as well. This system can be helpful if the player finds themselves in a soft-lock situation, which happened once during the review playthrough. In one section of the game, Kosmos needs to prevent a bank robbery in the past. A vital object—a large stick of dynamite—managed to phase through the floor and out of existence, making progress impossible. The autosave occurred after the dynamite escaped the confines of the world, so the only option was to load from a chapter. Thankfully, this chapter system was in place, otherwise the whole game would have needed to be started over. Perhaps a ‘reset screen’ option in the pause menu could be a helpful addition to prevent this problem in the future.
The world of The Great Perhaps has a pretty, cartoon aesthetic, with the transition between the past and the present showing a stark difference in how the place has aged. Lots of menacing creatures have emerged since the fall of mankind, with two-headed rats, giant mole-like beasts, an enormous octopus, and a creepy shadowy humanoid all doing their best to bring Kosmos down. Music is similarly well crafted, with a particular highlight being the escape sequence in a collapsing underground city. Kosmos has to assemble a giant robot to escape, and with each piece he completes, the music increases in tempo and adds more instruments to the mix. On the planet’s surface, the music invokes a sad, lonely atmosphere, trying to insert the emotion this game sorely needs.
So much potential is wasted in The Great Perhaps. Puzzle design is solid throughout, but hampered with finicky controls. Art direction is outstanding, but the story that the game is trying to support flounders between ‘funny’ and serious, and is full of clichés. Offensive content notwithstanding, The Great Perhaps is a very run-of-the-mill time travel story delivered in a monotonous tone. Many adjectives could be used to describe this game, but ‘Great’ is certainly not among them.
Reviewed on PC. Also available on Linux and macOS.
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