Thursday, 22 November 2012

Amnesia - A Love Story : Also, DEATH!


This has by far been the most agonising experience I have ever had with a computer game. I've never had a stronger urge to not play a game in my life, yet this experiment refused to let me bow to my cowardice. So finally, after lots and lots of procrastination, I sat down last night (NIGHT!!) and decided that I wasn't leaving my chair until this sucker was done.

I'd like to open with a declaration that I did not cheat. In fact, I should phrase that slightly differently. I did not "cheat". I did however deploy several safeguards so my spine didn't literally drop right out of my back whilst playing. Consider these 5 top tips if you're a complete wuss, but like me, can really appreciate the fantastic game that lies underneath.

Tip 1: Give up. You're a coward, drop it and move on.

Tip 2: Still here? Congratulations! You made it as far as I did. Amnesia is excellent at completely sucking you into its world through light and music. The first of which can be conquered by playing in Windowed mode, and setting yourself a smashing colourful picture for your wallpaper! With your peripherals suitably dazzled, the little window into hell seems a little less horrifying.

Should have used more kittens really.

Tip 3: As mentioned, the audio in Amnesia is superb. It balances ambiance, and atmospheric ditties brilliantly, and constantly makes you believe something is about to happen every single second you're playing.  Haunting tones, and low rumblings of the house cracking and collapsing around you keep you on a constant knife edge. If you follow the developers advice at the beginning, they would have you playing this lobotomy with headphones on. SCREW THAT. Here's a little technique which helped me through some of the earlier stages:

Tip 4: Get a friend to play it first, so you know when the first baddie is. Nothing happens what so ever that will hurt you in the first 30-45 minutes of this game, although it will constantly convince you that it is about to. Reading Ben's post, I gathered where he came across his first enemy, and I felt much more confident in the earlier sections, knowing that the audio cues were just trying to shit me up.

Tip 5: Know, that this is a game that doesn't want to kill you. In fact, when you tinker with some of the systems, you'll see that it's brilliant at convincing you that you're about to perish, when in fact you're quite safe. Let me explain.

As I walked through the opening sections, I was aware that my sanity was going to be an issue. Also, the game has a sanity system as well, so this linked in quite well. Through cowardice and a desire to constantly kill myself however, I discovered that it doesn't really hurt that much to loose your marbles. In several rooms I attempted to bury myself into a dank, dark corner and pop off for a cuppa, hoping I would return to a dribbling muppet and the sweet release of a 'Game Over' screen. Alas, sadly, this doesn't work. Your screen will garble up and you'll come off all drunk, but you're completely fine. DAMN IT! I needed to try something else.

Later on, I got scratched and attacked by some pulsating red globs that had formed on the walls. EXCELLENT! I stood in the middle of the damage, left the computer on, and went to watch Australian Masterchef with my girlfriend in the living room. Returning back an hour later, there I was, still "barely conscious", but alive and well. 

This is a clever move on the developers part, as spending all that time in the earlier stages carefully crafting the build up of tension would be completely wasted if I died from a red blob. In a game like this, the more you die, the more it is trivialised  to the point where death becomes a chore, as opposed to something to be feared. Sadly, it also meant I still hadn't found a way to suicide out of this mess, so I was forced to continue.

Great little puzzle, despite feeling like the whole thing would explode and melt your arse off at any second.

Another neat trick is the physics system. It really ties you to the world, and alongside the first person perspective, it completely connects you to the levels, increasing immersion and thus the sweats. Despite the early chemical puzzle being a simple 'collect the key cards', it's dressed up in a lovely interactive chemistry set, where you feel like you are actually turning every lever. Opening doors and drawers is equally lovely, and I'd love to see more adventure games use this kind of system.

Alas, the chemical puzzle led me through the blockage, and onwards to the refinery. I KNEW the evil bastard, who I had since dubbed Simon, was in here somewhere as this is where Ben had encountered him. My previous calmness in the knowledge that I was safe in the earlier levels, was now completely eroded and I knew it was about to kick off.

As the level loaded, I inched down a dark corridor and was surprised by how quickly I met the one thing I had been dreading. A shadow lurched ahead of me. What I saw however, was release. An end to the constant dread that something was about to happen. I'm much more susceptible to psychological tricks than visual ones, and the greatest horror movies are at their best when nothing is actually happening on screen, with the inevitable shock being a welcome relief. So there he was, not having seen me, lurking around in his own filth, an the first thing to enter my mind was... "GIZZ A KISS!!"

Pucker up Sunshine!
Lamp on (you're told not to do this), sprinting (and this) I ran towards the shadow (definitely not this) lips puckered and arms wide open!

Easy on the tongue fella, I'm new at this
As I charged him, brandishing my useless lamp, Simon caught sight of me and ran to greet me with loving claws. A single dig across my face slumped me the floor. I had won. I had beaten the challenge and proved that no, I can't finish it, and I never will. Despite trying to drive myself insane, letting anything have a free dig at my soft flesh, and throwing myself off any high ledge I could find, the only thing driving me on through this game was hoping it wouldn't be too long before Simon and me were united and I could put this whole mess behind me.

I can't recommend this game enough, it really is a master-class in interaction  mood, and puzzle design. I never made it anywhere near using the barricade system, or really exploring the enemy effects on sanity, and I don't ever plan on it. But you're probably less of a wuss than me, right?

Oh and by the way, the earlier stages do have a surprise in there. I lied. 

Have fun!


Date: Most of November
Cause of death: Cowardice, desire to mate with a mutant
Difficulty: There isn't one, nor does it need it.
Biggest failing: Really? You want me to list these?


  1. Keep up the good work chaps, lovin' these so far!

    1. Thanks very much Jason! We're hoping to work to a more structured deadline so hopefully we'll have more posts, more often

  2. I should be writing something up tonight!