When I saw The Perme…The Perseme…this game, I had to check it out based on the title alone. For all I know that could be Russian for “motion sickness simulator,” but I still would have played it.
It only works once though, developers, so don’t think about trying that again!
Well anyway, turns out that’s just the name of your ship. Not a spaceship, but a regular ship back in the days of the Soviet Union. You’re out on a survey mission and next thing you know some kind of monster from the deep has crawled on board with you and you’ve got a lot more to worry about than oceanography.
Basically it winds up being a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure version of The Thing, which is such a perfect idea that I can’t believe nobody’s done it before.
This kind of story is all about uncertainty, and the branching, choice-driven format here is ideally suited to it. You never really know who you can trust, whether or not you’re in immediate danger or what’s the right course of action. Every choice makes you sweat a little as you’re constantly second-guessing yourself, but you just have to wing it and do your best as the events develop. It’s an extremely effective source of tension.
One thing that really stands out here is the text itself. They deliver it with a lot of style that really heightens the atmosphere: the muted, waterlogged color scheme, the murky background, the hypertext words that draw you off into new corners of the narrative. The frantic questions and nagging little thoughts flickering around the periphery as your fear and paranoia grow were an especially nice touch. It actually reminded me a bit of Katana Zero in that respect.
Wait, did I just compare this humble little student project to the best indie game I’ve ever played?
For all of its good qualities, though, right now it’s in a very rudimentary state; although you can’t blame them too much. Like I said, this was made by one guy as a student project, so what you have here is more of a bare-bones framework than a full-fledged game. The features are visible, but ultimately suffer from a lack of development.
There’s a decent range of endings, for example, but not nearly enough meaningful branching and interactive engagement along the way. It all feels awfully hasty in its current form. Every time I found myself wishing I could stop, look around more, or go off in another direction, they pull you along to the next scene like a tour guide who’s running behind schedule. And while overall the writing isn’t bad, it could use a lot of polishing.
Still, the author was really onto something here, and in some ways the most elusive parts–the concept, the look, the feel, the overall nature of the experience–are already done.
Just imagine how they could improve on a solid prototype like this with more time and effort!
They could expand the available paths, conversation options, key decision points and endings. Provide more buildup to really heighten the tension. Flesh out the characters with new scenes to establish their personalities and backgrounds so you can think about aligning with different allies or identifying enemies. Do something useful with that “paranoia” point system that’s sitting up there in the corner. Invent even more dynamic ways to use the text to complement the story and atmosphere.
With a little work it has the potential to be a real gem, even if nobody could ever pronounce it.
Developer: Sean Arnold
Publisher: Sean Arnold
Played on: Steam
The Bottom Line: