Monday, October 12, 2015

Blackbay Asylum

Blackbay Asylum Indie Game
Courtesy of Steam Store Page
Developer: TAD Productions AB
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Genre: Adventure

One Sentence Review:
A good game exists in here but it's let down by some serious story issues that start to pile up as you play.

Some really dumb people on steam have tagged this to be a horror game. This is obvious evidence that steam tags require a serious rethinking unless valve is using them to collect data for the mass re-education program it's planning. Time to get to work!

First, when I first saw the name and realized it was another game set in another asylum my eyes basically rolled into the back of my head and did a little dance. Asylums are about as tired a scene for games as grey brick dungeons. When I actually played the game I was pleasantly surprised. They did far better than I was expecting, which isn't really hard to be fair, and while they didn't quite breathe life back into this type of scenery they did manage to apply enough voltage to make it shake violently and amusingly.

The main character, Doug, is not as well treated as the scenery unfortunately. I can't quite put my finger on it but every aspect of his character seems all over the place. Sometimes he acts like an idiot, such as when you try and click on certain books in the levels, and other times he shows fairly glowing levels of intelligence. There is a right way to portray a character which hides their intelligence behind a visage of idiocy but if that's what the developers were intending they definitely didn't pull it off. If it's not what they were intending, then they lost the list of Doug's personality traits somewhere along the game's development cycle and were just making shit up in parts of this. I could list the times where Doug acts quite intelligent (albeit psychotic) but I don't want to spoil this game. We'll get to why later.

As for the overarching story, it's cliche. It's your generic Lovecraftian horror-inspired story, and I cannot express how painful it is to me that I can say the word Generic and the word Lovecraft in the same sentence. It's not a bad story, but like most of the generic ones I come out feeling like I didn't experience anything worthy of paying tribute to Lovecraft. Let me explain, Cthulhu is meant to be a monster that is so far above us that our actions are about as effective against it as flicking ants at a wall of solid diamond. When you see a Lovecraftian horror you're meant to feel weak, powerless, and worthless because that's what you are. I left this game after successfully restraining the horrors and just felt like I didn't quite get the experience promised to me by that steam overview!

Next is the gameplay to which I must say "Oh god where to start with this". The gameplay is alright taken as a whole with only a few bullshit puzzles to damage the experience. What I wasn't pleased with was the fact that the game inexplicably switched from third person to first person for no reason that I could determine. All it did was make a certain numbers-based puzzle written on a whiteboard difficult to decipher because I couldn't make out what the text on the left was saying and one of those "symbols" looked very close to the symbol for Taurus. There are a billion little nitpicks like this such as where they went to a lot of effort to make a certain room which builds an incredible amount of atmospheric tension but never paid it off with anything except letting it drift away after you left.

Actually I think I can sum up the gameplay in a single spoiler-y statement. During the final boss you will have to walk up to the boss 3 times and get slammed against a wall. You have to do this to beat the final boss. I think the person who wrote the guide I was alt-tabbing over to every so often put it best, it's an action that defies all logic. A puzzle game where a crucial part of the final boss "puzzle" defies all logic. Wow.

Now a while ago I said I didn't want to spoil too much about this game and here's the reason why. Even with all its stupid flaws I still ended up liking Blackbay Asylum. At least enough to finish the entire game in one sitting. However, this game is definitely not worth the $20 price tag all things considered. I've gotten longer, more in-depth games than this for $10 and just to be nice that's where I'll put this one at. If you see it for half off it's worth your time, money, and perhaps one organ.

Click Here to Buy it from Steam!
Click Here for the Amazon Version!