Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kansas City, I Am Alive, and Lollipop Chainsaw

It's been a while since I've posted. My girlfriend and I have been in the middle of a move to Kansas City, Missouri! Now that we're all set up and I finally got internet in the apartment, I'll get back to my regular writing.

Right before leaving for KC, I finished Ubisoft's I Am Alive. It's received mixed reviews, but I loved it. Although it's obvious the developers wanted to create a more epic game than they were finally allowed, I Am Alive is a fantastic exploration of a nearly dead genre.

Survival-horror, once the bastion of Resident Evil and Silent Hill fame, has devolved into action and explosions. Perhaps this is because higher-fidelity graphics mean modern games don't need to rely on psychological horror to scare players. Perhaps it's because society today is increasingly ADD and doesn't want to spend more than 20 seconds walking through a room without shooting something. Regardless, survival-horror is an increasingly rare genre.

But there is hope! Swedish indie developer Frictional Games has been hard at work carrying the torch (or lantern?) for survival-horror with their Penumbra titles, and most recently, the iconic Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I Am Alive is an Xbox Live Arcade game in that same vein. While not as overtly scary as Amnesia, I Am Alive explores the "survival" part of "survival-horror." Bullets for your pistol are limited. Exposure to the dust around the city causes your stamina to fall. You can't climb forever like Lara Croft without hurting yourself. Most encounters with enemies are an exercise in finding a way to escape without a firefight.

I Am Alive has flaws. It's clear that the game's budget was slashed in the middle of production, with inaccessible areas and an abrupt ending. But the new ideas and unique approach in this title make the download worth it. Its emphasis on the struggle to survive and lack of empowerment of the player is a breath of fresh air in today's industry.

In other news, Suda 51's new effort, Lollipop Chainsaw, comes out on the 12th. And I'm worried. Grasshopper Manufacture's work has been getting increasingly silly and stupid. I know Suda is all about silly, but it seems he's beginning to phone it in. His 2005 opus, Killer7, had plenty of irreverent humor, but it was very dark and creepy at the same time. No More Heroes was less serious and more happy-go-lucky. Then Shadows of the Damned injected even more penis humor. I just hope Lollipop Chainsaw isn't as campy and half-hearted as it sounds like it's going to be.

At least Killer Is Dead has been announced for 2013.

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