9th of September, 2022
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: morgues, graphic novels, and a bit of editing.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
The Mortuary Assistant, PC
I had a proper creep-out playing The Mortuary Assistant the other day. All my hair stood on end and I was sweating and my heart was thudding. And it wasn't the middle of the night or anything - it was late afternoon and RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under was blaring in the background - but it didn't matter: I shuddered.
And OK, I'm an easy target, but there's something about the way this game handles scares that fascinates me. There's no combat in the game, you see, so you don't have to defend yourself when something frightening appears - you're not under that kind of threat. Really, you're just there to observe, and it's a design decision I cling to like a life raft in those moments, believe me. And you might think that really limits what Mortuary Assistant can do, the stress it can put you under, but it doesn't.
This game is a master at making almost imperceptible changes very quickly and then leaving them up to you to discover them. Think of those creepy photographs where you don't see the face at the window until you look again: it's like that. And those photos I always find creepier because I don't see the thing the first time around - it's something to do with the vulnerability of being in the presence of something but not realising it, I think, and it shakes me up. And I've lost count of the times Mortuary Assistant has pulled a similar trick.
But it doesn't feel like a trick. Somehow, it feels classy. There's rarely any fanfare attached to it for starters - it's not like you get a whack of orchestral sound just to make sure you jump out of your seat. All of a sudden, something is just there, and just as quickly, it's gone, scuttling away like a spider back down a hole. Actually, spiders are a really good reference, not because there are spiders in the game but because of how they move, so quickly and silently, so gracefully - there one moment, gone the next. The Mortuary Assistant is so often like that.
I realise this has probably put you off completely, but you should play it.
Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel, PSP
The PSP is perfectly placed to feel like the future and the past. It's still a lovely machine, with a bright screen and a real sense of luxury to it. But it's clearly old, too, even if you have a working battery and don't, like me, need to keep it connected to the mains.
I got the old PSP out this week because I was looking in the loft for something else - if anyone knows where the yellow wheely suitcase we bought a few years back is, please tell me - and I came across Metal Gear Acid and Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel. Acid is too good to rush through while loitering near a plug socket, so I've got a new battery coming. But the novel? I forgot I had this.
It's wonderful: a digital version of the comic by Ashley Wood, who turns Yoji Shinkawa's nervy designs into something that sort of reminds me of late period Sienkiewicz. The novel follows the plot of Metal Gear Solid in such evocative style that as I've been watching it I've been sort of flashbacking to the first time I saw the game running myself, back in my student house over twenty years ago.
The digital novel feels like the future and the past too. It's a lavish bit of fan service that came out, I suspect, to bridge the gap between Acid and Portable Ops. It's both a cash-in and something that comes from a place of real love, and it has a wonky item-search mini-game thrown in to make it harder to properly describe.
Playing this is 2022 on the PSP I feel like one of those soldiers who stayed in the trenches for years, not knowing the war was over. But don't get me wrong: it's been brilliant.
If you’re familiar with Sam Barlow’s newest foray into the interactive movie space you’ll know that the first rule of playing Immortality is you do not talk about playing Immortality. To spoil its genuinely surprising twists to any curious new player won’t ruin their experience, but keeping its layered secrets for them to discover all on their lonesome will definitely enhance the creepy, what-the-hell-is-going-on-here atmosphere of that first playthrough.
So, without talking about it too much, I can tell you that I half-wish wish I could erase Immortality from my memory and play it for the first time all over again. You never know what you’re going to get each time an image from one scene is clicked and it takes you to another random clip containing that image. This is one of the only mechanics in the game added to help you discover what happened to vanishing actress Marissa Marcel. Click on images, fast-forward, rewind, and favourite key moments from each of her three unreleased movies and you’ll soon be jumping down a twisty rabbit hole containing just as many messed up questions as there are messed up answers.
I only half-wish I could experience Immortality for the first time again, because right now - over a week after rolling the credits - I’m still playing it. Still searching for answers, making new discoveries, and reading other players’ wonderful thoughts and theories on the game’s story and its versatile themes. Although I wouldn’t say its plot and themes are unique, the way you discover them are.
I’ve never played anything quite like Immortality.
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