Guilty Party – Retro Redress
Crime – avoiding scary games
Redress – stop being a wuss and play Until Dawn
For someone who enjoys quite violent video games, I’m actually a bit of a coward. I haven’t played a survival horror game beyond Resident Evil and even then I had the lights on…during the day.
So when Until Dawn was released via the improving PSN Monthly games, I resolved to play it. Regardless of how scary it gets, I’m going to play through the story and document it here, like the Blair Witch Project but on a slightly higher budget.
After the cinematic title screen loads up, I remember that I don’t like horror films. I’ve seen a few Halloween films and Stephen King adaptations, but generally I just watch comedies. Judging by this title screen, I don”t think there will be much comedy in Until Dawn.
The game starts with a cruel prank being played on a girl called Hannah, where some prick called Mike sends her a fake love letter then gets the rest of the gang to hide and pop out. Seems like a good idea to anger someone in a big isolated house in the woods doesn’t it? Teenagers in horror films are always doing silly things like this. I’ve watched a few slasher films though so I have a plan when I start the game with Beth; when I’m given the option of finding the others by myself or waking up the hammered Josh, I try and wake Josh. Strength in numbers and all that. However, when I find the other characters (Josh isn’t waking up, he’s out) I learn that Beth is Hannah’s sister and Hannah has ran into the woods. Naturally, Bev decides to go looking for Hannah herself in the woods…alone. I try and help her. I pick the safe option, I time the Quick Time Event perfectly….Beth still ends up dead, after seeing her own death in a vision, then falling off a cliff with Hannah. Good start Retro Redress, good start…
This leads to a session with the creepiest psychologist ever, Dr Hill, who shows me some pictures and makes my skin crawl. He’s such a lifelike visual that it’s unsettling. Then we get the true introduction and the story is set out. Beth and Hannah are twins and we are now a year later on. Both are still missing after running out of their parents’ cabin, presumed dead. Naturally, there is going to be a gathering in the house a year later…why not? Josh, who I learn was the twin’s brother, seems keen to have a one year anniversary meeting where his sisters went missing…and no one else seems to have alarm bells ringing. If I was these kids’ parents, I’d be pulling out the ‘Big Book of Slasher Film Tropes’ and asking the kids to give it a read before grounding them forever.
I’m cast as Sam now, who as the picture above states, was Hannah’s best friend. A quick wander to meet Chris and we’re off on a cable car to the house. A cable car. I can’t think of anyway more spooky to travel to a place in the woods where a tragedy happened the previous year, but that’s me. Despite the ‘dumb kids slasher movie’ premise, I have to say that I’m enthralled by the game so far though. Until Dawn does feel like a film, the setting and characters look great and the atmosphere is chilling. Gameplay wise, it reminds me of a better Heavy Rain, more intuitive and user friendly. I really like the premise of the story too, that little changes can affect the future and the story line can change based on my choices.
I try to be friendly and safe in making choices…until Mike jumps out to scare Emily and new boyfriend Matt. I’ve decided I hate Mike, he’s a jerk and everything is his fault so I get Matt to threaten him. Mike backs down and Emily says she’s impressed…then wants to go back down the mountain alone to talk to Sam…who she can’t possibly locate. I know Emily wants to catch up with Jerkface Mike and get Matt to offer to come with her, but he gets shouted down. I hate Mike. I spent the next five minutes picking choices that could ruin Mike’s life…letting Matt see him sleazing on to Emily, throwing snowballs at him, denying him kisses from his girlfriend. I’ve gone crazy with vengeance, already and we’re only on the first chapter.
Luckily, I’m sent back to Dr Hill at this point, who makes me feel safe by asking me what I fear most. Repeatedly. Telling him this information seems the worse idea in the world to me – I reckon he’ll probably make me live with these things every day. The way Dr Hill says “Clowns, needles and snakes” makes my skin crawl. I bet, any second after the session was finished, Dr Hill was on the internet, seeing if he could hire a clown who owned a snake and a needle. Or a Snake Clown made of needles. Or a needle made of clowns and….well, you get it. Some awful combination of my three worse fears, no expense spared.
Chapter 2 begins with me controlling Chris and meeting up with Josh. I’m convinced Josh is up to something. He’s clearly arranged this reunion for a reason and I don’t think it’s to reminisce. Josh also goads Chris over his crush Ashley too, which makes me 1) dislike Josh and 2) wonder if a 33 year old man can get away with using the word ‘crush’. This part of the chapter sees Chris explore the isolated cabin, looking for deodorant to help melt the frozen lock. It’s lots of fun looking for clues in the dark and I’m enjoying learning about the mystery of Blackwood Pines – namely the fired Janitor who may or may not be on the warpath. I’m surprised Chris doesn’t worry when locating a Brown Totem depicting the death of Ashley though. I’m kinda worried, which I guess is a strength of the game’s storytelling. I then provoke an argument between Matt and Mike, which gets Emily and Jess involved. I’m feeling sorry for Matt, who is a massive doormat, as he is dragged down the hill to find Emily’s bag.
I’m then given my first chance to control Jerkface Mike. Mike needs to fire up the generator for the ‘love-nest’ creepy Josh allocated to him. After a quick bitch about Emily, Mike fires up the old generator…as a scary guy stands in the window behind him. Mike doesn’t see him…but I do and Jessica seems confused when I make Mike charge out of the generator room like a bat out of hell. The next section sees Jerk Face Mike and Jessica go through an abandoned mine shaft on the way to the cabin…I’ll admit I’m getting a bit scared now. Mike’s section ends with Jessica disappearing after he turns his back for a split second, after she throws a snowball in his face…it’s all starting to get a bit serious now, isn’t it?
Back to the cabin, I’m controlling Sam and looking to get the hot water working so she can grab a bath. Josh is just discussing getting an ouiji board out, because you know, he’s not up to anything relating to his dead sisters. Josh claims he’s asking Chris and Ashley to dig out the ouiji board so they can be alone, but I think he just wants the ouiji board. An uncomfortable boiler repair session follows. My reflexes are failing though as the night drags on…I take four attempts to fix the boiler then mess up the QTE for Josh’s high five, leaving him hanging. It wouldn’t be a big deal in any other game, but given Until Dawn’s ‘Butterfly effect’ gameplay, I’m scared this means Josh will now kill me. Luckily, Chris breaks up the awkward moment by pretending to be a homicidal monk and we all laugh at his prank. Well, I didn’t – it scared me then I wanted to slap him for being silly. I have a feeling one of these pranks is going to be an actual killer at some point. Sam decides to leave Josh, Chris and Ashley to play with the ‘spirit board’ and go get her bath…priorities and all that…
Finally back to Emily and DoorMatt, off to locate Emily’s precious bag. I feel bad for how I’ve portrayed Matt with my choices so far, so I’m getting him to flirt with Emily as much as possible…until we find a severed pig’s head with a note saying ‘Welcome Back’. Matt makes a crack about someone making a snowman. I love a bad joke more than most, but there is a time, namely not near decapitated farm animals….This ends the Chapter and Matt’s chances of any action. Back in therapy….Dr Hill asks me how I feel about loneliness and how it affects Mike? Wait…is Dr Hill part of the game? Is this a meta thing?? Dr Hill is terrifying me so far…I need therapy after each of his intervals.
Chapter 3, Isolation, starts with Ashley, Josh and Chris playing with the ouiji board. The board claims it’s Beth and Chris interprets that there is proof of Hannah’s death in the library. Josh is upset by this outcome and accuses Ashley and Chris of messing around…despite it all being his idea and pushing the ouiji board on to them. Plus, what was he expecting the ouiji board to say? It was never going to be good news, right?
Back to Mike and his search for Jessica,..and he finds a skeleton mask. Naturally, Jerk Face laughs it off, but he;s terrified when Jess jumps out. I no-sell it – I’m committed to playing Mike as the biggest ‘too cool for school’ jerk in the world. I even start shining Mike’s torch in Jess’ face. I get a great revenge scare when I find the old miner’s mask too. I’m always nicey-nice in games, so it’s good fun being a dick with Mike…too much fun. After finding a injured deer and putting it out of it’s misery (by ripping it’s head off?!?) Mike and Jess are chased to the world’s furthest cabin by what they believe is a bear. Post QTE assisted escape, the biggest problem Mike has now is how he is going to get Jess to sleep with him. It’s the usual things in the way really – lights, blankets, fire, gentle reassurance, Jess’ missing phone being thrown through a window, Jess rising to the bait and shouting about potential sex to supposed enemies, then a monster claw pulling Jess through a window. We’ve all been there.
Meanwhile, Chris and Ashley are investigating in the library, post-seance. A nice search around secret doors and rooms takes a bad twist when a masked man abducts Ashley…moments after Chris had explained about the answerphone message about the convict to her. As the chapter ends, it looks like the abductor is setting up some time of game for Chris. This instantly gets my back up. I don’t take games too seriously and can be kinda jokey, but abducting a loved one? That gets me invested in a game. If you can make me care about the character and their quest, I’m playing that game to the end. I want to help Chris now – he’s lost this girl he cares about and I suspect the rescue mission is going to be traumatic for Chris I’m getting ‘Heavy Rain Butterfly Trial’ vibes here….I remember playing Max Payne and The Darkness though – if you take my loved ones it’s on….me and Chris are coming for you, masked guy!
As I try and calm down, I’m back with Dr Hill, the world’s most terrifying therapist. First thing I see is a mutilated clown mannequin…I was joking when I said he would go buy one!!! Dr Hill is asking me who I like of the gang the most. It becomes a round robin of who I like least…and I end up picking Josh over Mike. I’m surprised by that, but it’s how I feel. Mike, as much of a git as he is, makes me laugh. Josh is kinda….off. I’ve suspected him to be the killer all along to be honest. It’s pretty much the plot of Friday 13th – grieving relative takes out victims. As the scene ends, I notice that Dr Hill’s nice office has become a sparse room in a ruined warehouse….I’m getting scared now, so scared that I forgot to take a screenshot of Dr Hill being creepy. However, I have an accurate recreation of my facial expression, to show you how I feel…
Will Retro Redress man up or has fear taken over?
Will Mike be less of a jerk?
Will Sam actually get out of the bath?