Something to Play: “Cloud Chamber”

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First of all, I’ve gotta give a shout-out to the folks at Extra Credits, a YouTube show that discusses the evolution of video games from a developer’s point-of-view. It’s because of their recent episode “Interactive Video” (which you can watch here,) that I even heard of today’s game. It’s a very well thought-out out show and if you’re really into indie games, they have a spin-off, James Recommends, that’s all about that.

Anyhow, the game I’m talking about this week is called Cloud Chamber, and I honestly haven’t played any other game that’s anything like it. Here’s the concept: A filmmaker has been developing a documentary about a secret laboratory that’s on the verge of a scientific breakthrough to end all breakthroughs. However, after a strange and disastrous happening, he decides to upload everything he has gathered to an online database, represented here as a 3D landscape, with the height of the landscape signifying the importance of the information. Your job as the player is to investigate all of this information and work with all of the other players to determine what happened and in what order.

Still with me? Great. It’s best summarized as a massively-multiplayer mystery game. Every node of information, be it audio, video, or article, has a comment section built into it. By participating in the community and adding things to the discussion that people find worthwhile, you unlock more information to further discuss.

If you ever had an in-depth discussion with your friends after watching a deeply thought-provoking movie, you know what this is like. Cloud Chamber takes that kind of conversation and implements it into every part of the story it’s trying to tell. It’s very detailed, too, with subtle clues sometimes being the only indicator of a clip being before another clip, or after it.

This is not a game for everyone. If you prefer games with more direct interactivity, or if you’re not one to converse through message boards, you should probably look elsewhere. It’s not perfect, either. There’s some overacting in the clips and I still can’t tell if one of the main character’s accent is supposed to be American or British.

But Cloud Chamber is definitely one of the most unique and creative concepts for a game I’ve seen in quite some time. At a $20 price tag, it might be a little pricey for those not sure if this new kind of game is something they’d enjoy. But if you’re looking for a game that’s nothing like what you’ve played before, it might just be worth the price of admission.

You can pick up Cloud Chamber on Steam here.

Spooky Things: “The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter”

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Let me get this out of the way before I talk about what game I recommend for this October; I do not do jump scares. At all. I don’t enjoy horror movies, I don’t play many horror games and you can forget about convincing me to go into a haunted house attraction. I can, however, enjoy dark, supernatural stories with creepy atmospheres. And that’s why, today, I’m talking about the recently released indie game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Developed by the independent Polish studio, The AstronautsEthan Carter places you in the shoes of Paul Prospero, a detective with the ability to sense paranormal activity. Through his eyes, you investigate the town of Red Creek Valley to find the titular child, who requested your help before, well, vanishing. Along the way, you’ll solve puzzles, gather clues and communicate with the dead, as you come to find out more and more of a dark, ancient force corrupting the town.

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It’s telling that, upon starting a new game, the first things that show up on screen are the words, “This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand”. True to it’s word, you start out wandering in the forest with very little instruction. It may take you half-an-hour or so to formulate a game plan, but once you start accomplishing something, it all clicks into place.

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The biggest selling point for this game is the atmosphere. Ethan Carter is one of the most aesthetically beautiful games I’ve ever played. Nearly every second of gameplay would be worth photographing. More impressive is that the entire world of the game can be traveled without a single loading screen ever popping up. The game doesn’t forget where the roots of it’s story are, though. This idealistic country-side town is made all the more eerie with the supernatural, occult-centered events.

So as much as I’ve been raving about the game up to this point, it may surprise you to know that I haven’t beaten it, yet. Why, you ask? Well, let’s go back to the start. I don’t handle jump scares very well, and, despite the lack of indication anywhere that there would be some, there are some.

The section of the game I’m talking about is a side maze in the mines. It looks like something you can skip, but you come to find out that you cannot complete the game without completing all of the side activities. So my game abruptly ends there. It would be nice if The Astronauts could patch in some kind of work-around option for the more squeamish, because I know I’m not the only one.

However, if that’s not an issue to you, than I highly recommend this game. It’s beautifully atmospheric, the puzzles are creative, the crime scenes are fun to solve and the story is intriguing right up to the end. It’s an enormously impressive debut effort from The Astronauts and I’m very interested in where this new studio goes from here.

You can check out The Vanishing of Ethan Carter on Steam by following this link.