Featuring F.A.C. on 11-11: Memories Retold, The Shapeshifting Detective, and Thief of Thieves: Season One.
For this week’s O.D. on Games, ROW will discuss three games he recently played in the ‘F.A.C. game reviews’ mold—F.A.C. standing for Fast And Concise—as the owls are hard at work trying to finish up loose ends before the end of the year.
- 11-11: Memories Retold
11-11: Memories Retold is a story-driven adventure game from Aardman and Digixart studios, set in World War 1 where the story starts on the 11th of November 1916 with a Canadian photographer talked into joining the war and a German technician in search of his missing son, and goes on to the end of World War 1 on the 11th of November 1918. The main takeaway I’ve taken from this game is that if you look at it as a game, then it’s not a very good one; it’s a walking sim without any nuance to its gameplay, it goes on for too long, and its story—while moving and tragic—is not something that we haven’t seen before; however, if you look at it as an experience, then you will find the beautiful art-style and great voice acting, combined with the story and simple—yet effective—gameplay elements, to be more than enough to justify its existence and its asking price. While I still think the developers could have added more variety in gameplay terms, cut down the length of the game to make it more impactful, 11-11 is still a good game if played for the atmosphere and to enjoy the stylish visual presentation, rather than the gameplay mechanics—which range from okay exploring bits and taking photographs to rudimentary and time-consuming puzzles that add nothing to the experience. While the story is something we’ve seen before in other mediums, Elijah Wood and Sebastian Koch provide excellent performances that bring that story alive and make it worthwhile, and the art style provides the novelty factor that made this game exist; it’s a shame that it doesn’t really surprise either as a game or as a story, but it is still worthwhile as an experience.
- The Shapeshifting Detective
The Shapeshifting Detective is the latest FMV game published by Wales Interactive and developed by D’Avekki Studios, set in the small town of August where Dorota Shaw was murdered and you—the titular shapeshfting detective, referred to as Sam—must figure out who did and why, using your unusual powers and the “high risk-high reward” system of deleting questions to remain undercover and uncover more information. I was really excited for this game, because since “Contradiction: Spot the Liar!” there’s been a hole in my gaming library for cheesy, over-the-top acted, FMV mystery games, that TSD seemed poised to fill; it’s a ridiculous premise with a B-movie aesthetic, a shapeshifting mechanic that seemed poised for deliberate, stupid mistakes that would make me laugh, and a mystery that looked to be filled with dumb stories and absurd moments. TSD is not that; it can be, with some scenarios involving you posing nude for a photographer or kicking someone in the balls as someone else, but there’s not enough of those moments to recommend on that feature alone. The “deleting questions” mechanic is an interesting concept, but not groundbreaking or impactful enough, and the mystery itself is…fine. There are two reasons I can point to, about why TSD does not fill the Contradiction shaped hole in my life: First, while Contradiction was primarily enjoyed sarcastically and obviously the team behind it was in on the joke, it wasn’t a bad game per say; it had terrible UI, but the contradiction mechanic was a pretty good blueprint and the story went into some interesting, weird places, and the mystery was pretty interesting to unravel. TSD on the other hand, has a great set up—with tarot readers, radio hosts called Poe and Ellis, and a secret agent called “Agent X”—but those elements are not really escalated further and are not interesting enough on their own; furthermore, I’m not really sure how “in to the joke” the team behind TSD is, because there are several occasions of over-the-top acting and dumb plot beats, but there is equally as much of straight on acting and taking the premise somewhat seriously, which makes the game kind of dull. The second reason is that where Contradiction reveled in allowing the player to do stupid stuff and ask idiotic questions, providing the main entertainment for the game, TSD feels too guarded and restrictive; you have to screw up pretty badly in order to get to the point where you kick someone in the balls, you can’t shapeshift as someone and then go run into the real person to see what happens, you can’t make deliberately awful decisions as someone else and see the repercussions of your actions. Simply put, in Contradiction you could go around and make the sign of the horns (where Jenks had to use both hands to do) asking people if they knew what it meant, which they replied with absolute bewilderment at the stupidity of the question; you could ask everyone about a shitty home-making brewery and everyone would give you dumb response (some thought it was terrible, others questioned your intelligence for even thinking that was relevant, others seemed pretty happy with the new found knowledge and ammunition to mock their buddy). In TSD, you can make bad decisions on purpose to make dumb stuff happen, but other than that, there’s not really much to it; it’s a fine FMV mystery with a pretty okay noir aesthetic and an interesting concept, but it lacks the charm and goofiness other games have had to make it worthwhile. By the way, if you haven’t played Contradiction yet, please go play it!
- Thief of Thieves: Season 1
This is going to be a short one, and it should be taken with a truck-load of salt, because I played one hour of this game and decided that I had enough! The only great thing about Thief of Thieves is the XIII-esque art style; that’s it. Everything else, from the clunky controls and incredibly unhelpful and frustrating camera, to the archaic and rage-inducing stealth gameplay, is an incredible disappointment; wait, I also really liked the soundtrack for the one hour I had with it. But, the unbelievably bad gameplay and the mind-boggling decisions that defeat the player’s patience from the tutorial, were enough for me to lose all interest in re-experiencing the art style with modern machines and to the potentially interesting story; in a year that has been busier than any other, I’ve not longed for an hour wasted as much as the hour I spent with Thief of Thieves.