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Don't Look Back (spoilers) by Ice Cream Jonsey 03/24/2009, 11:03pm PDT


I didn't like Another World when I first played it. There are probably a thousand games I'd like to sit down and complete, and as a result, if I play a game that has laggy controls or has me learn by dying, I instantly dismiss it, like some sort of prick. There are going to be good games that I miss because of this - some games know the rules and break them, and need a little programmer faith on the player's part. I was intrigued to learn there's a new remake for sale.

I was having lunch with Pinback and his gal and was asked if I visit playthisthing.com. "Only when my stuff is on it!" I said, again, like some kind of prick. That's not even true - I hit it up once a week and the restaurant was busy and loud! I only said that because, Christ, how often am I going to get asked a question like that making fucking text games. Pinner told me that there was a game called Don't Look Back that was the featured game - we talked about it for a sec and the impression I got was that he believed that - for a "message" game, like Braid - it was sort of on the difficult side.

I would have never played Don't Look Back if I weren't looking for an excuse to not buy Another World - I don't live in Detroit or anything, I just find myself frittering away money on impulse purchases, and I'm trying to curb that. So, I started DLB because it was free.

There are really two things at play here when it comes to reviewing a game like this - three if you want to include how hot the registered chat was on the side of the screen (I've played the game three times, and the chat can indeed get pretty filthy and descriptive). The first bit is whether or not the game is fun to play in a retro way. I will take the opportunity to complain that using Flash for anything is a terrible mistake, and really did this game no favors. It's laggy, it often didn't register my keystrokes at all, it stops me from using a joystick, it's a mess. There is an option to download the game, which eliminates these complaints. So I'm kind of being a fag even mentioning it, really.

You get a gun in the game, and I found that I was able to time my shots (to hit descending bats and such) very well. Shooting a moving target in a game like this is somehow very satisfying. I thought the graphics were fine, and I really liked the music. There is a lot of learning-by-dying, but I just don't have the nerd rage that I once did. It was fine. I did like how there were a few boards in the game that did nothing but create scale - in interactive fiction, we're encouraged to not make rooms that serve no purpose, but I don't know if I really subscribe to that these days. And besides, Pitfall! had rooms you simply ran through, and everybody was cool with that.

Actually, there's just a lot of dying, period! I must have died a hundred times in this thing. I'd die because I wasn't able to execute, because I wasn't able to instantly process a new screen, because I didn't time my jumps correctly, because somebody was just about to come in the nearby chat and I got distracted; it was brutal. Death had no meaning, because the game instantly pops you back to where you were before. This had the effect of making my skillset worse, as I couldn't blame myself for not getting by a screen most of the time. Again, I think this game would be perfectly fine implemented on anything less laggy than Flash, like a Connect Four set.

This brings us to the other part of the game, which invokes the title.

Please go play it if it sounds or looks like anything you might enjoy. I am the worst game player on this site, except for maybe bink and Moog, and whoever has been playing Team Fortress 2 with Stew and Ray lately (unless they've been playing with bink and Moog: it doesn't stack). It took me less than 20 minutes to solve the game, it will take you fewer.

Alright, having played it, yeah - the game starts out with the player looking over a gravesite... we progress, beat up some boss monsters, rescue the ghost of his girl... the two of us get back to the tombstone... and hey - HEY! We see ourself, our physical body, still looking over the grave. Our avatar and the ghost of the girl - the two of us evaporate, dissipate.

(I'm now going to talk about this game as if it were a fully-staffed AAA title released by EA in Q4. I mean this as a compliment to Terry Cavanagh, the programmer - I'm making no distinction between it, and Braid and Madden 09 and Skate and whatever else.)

I didn't see that ending coming, but at the same time, most of what indie games do comes to a complete surprise to me. I had been desensitized by the ghost of the girl dying (you can't 'look back' once you find her) but -- since I had to restart so many boards by hitting the right arrow key -- my OWN character's death was suddenly shocking again. Everything suddenly got personal, and there was some corporeal asshole with MY dude's body still being all melancholy and not doing shit to fix the temporary(!) problem of his girl's death.

But I think we're 'supposed' to reflect on the inevitability of death, and of how helpless it makes us. Pretending to go into Hades and rescue the love of our life is a nice fantasy, but that's just it - childish comfort. On the other hand, one of the things I love about video games is that it gives us a doorway into, er, another world, where shit like this is possible. I would not have been capable of making this game, because the thought of coding up a playable version of loss and grief, well, that would already exist in the real world. To this end, I was able to play a game that I'd never have been able to make myself, and I always get a charge out of that. I think Don't Look Back works or doesn't work based on whether or not it occupies your mind for a little while afterwards and, for me, that makes it a complete success.


the dark and gritty...Ice Cream Jonsey!
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Don't Look Back (spoilers) by Ice Cream Jonsey 03/24/2009, 11:03pm PDT NEW
    Another World remake HD controls are much smoother than the original's. by Creexuls, a monster >:3 03/24/2009, 11:17pm PDT NEW
    Spoilers by Fussbett 03/24/2009, 11:57pm PDT NEW
 
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