Man, I’ve never felt so unwanted. My whole life, these things have been telling me I’m Player #1; now I’m like a third wheel in my own game.

Then again, this isn’t so much a game as a performance, like one of those plays where they get the audience to participate in certain parts. While you may get to sort-of do something once in a while, it’s clear that you’re only here to witness someone else’s production.

“Follow the provided Experiment Brief exactly.” Pretty much sums it up

Even the most linear of linear games will give you a little bit of room to interact with things in your own way. You know, something for you to overcome using your brain or reflexes. Solve a puzzle. Kill a monster. Make a significant choice. At least explore someplace cool.

For the briefest of moments at the very beginning it seems as if things might be ok, but after that they spend almost the entire game–no exaggeration–literally telling you, “do this, do that” like your micromanaging boss. And the few times they’re not standing right over your shoulder breathing down your neck, you have zero opportunity to do anything but march obediently toward your next destination.

This part was good for a little while

The things they’re ordering you to do aren’t even fun or interesting. They’re things like, “sit in this chair and don’t move.”

“Now turn this dial to the number we tell you and press that button right there.”

“Ok, set the radio to this station.”

“Good, now look up this code by fiddling with the annoying controls on a simulated microfilm machine.” (Do you guys even know what that is?)

Just as bad as I remember

They could have automated the entire experience without any real loss of content. You might as well just watch a video of someone else playing it and save yourself ten bucks.

Well, it’s got “stories” in the title, so maybe we’re supposed to focus on that. But even if you squint hard enough that the so-called gameplay blends into the whole, what kind of story are they telling?

It’s the sort of thing only a Writer could write. Pure narrative affectation.

You’d almost think that they were trying to make some kind of meta-point about free will, but no. The story has only one purpose: to mess with the viewer. Everything else is just decoration or plot device.

They weren’t kidding about the epilepsy warning, by the way

For example, they go to great lengths to re-create a retro 80’s-style setting, complete with monochrome CRTs, text adventures and clicky mechanical keyboards–they even pulled out the Stranger Things-looking font–but it’s all for show; or maybe a little frisson of nostalgia if you’re old enough to be nostalgic about things like that. The events aren’t rooted in that time period in any meaningful way. As for the characters, they’re only there to advance the contrived plot. You don’t actually get to know anything about them as people.

You could argue that they’re basically doing the same thing as any episode of The Twilight Zone, but the punchline wasn’t nearly clever enough to justify the rest of the tedium. I mean, I’m terrible at figuring out plot twists and even I saw this one coming a mile away. It felt like playing hide and seek with a little kid, where you need to pretend not to see his feet sticking out and hear him giggling from behind the curtain in order to keep things going. In a “game” this self-conscious, you don’t exactly have to be a detective to know there’s something fishy going on.

I’ll give you three guesses

Pick your least favorite M Night Shyamalan movie–you have many to choose from–and then imagine that it stops after every scene and won’t start again until you type in a long access code that you have to look up on a two-factor authenticator.

Too bad. Like I said, Chapter 1 looked promising for a little while. They would have better off just following the lead of those first few minutes and telling a straight-up sci-fi/horror story instead, but you know that’s never gonna happen with something like this.

Developer: No Code

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Purchased on: Steam

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