Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Weekly Round Up: Of Heavy Rain and Fragile Dreams

So that weekly update thing? Yeah I screwed that up didn't I? I'm getting really good at starting something and never even getting to the second step of a small journey. Call it apathy, call it being overworked, call it... a failure of my humanity. I certainly will. No matter, the two weeks since I last updated saw me throw in the towel regarding Final Fantasy XIII. I actually had about 500 words or so ready to go last week moaning about all my problems with the game, but considering that 500 words also got cut from my review of FF13 I guess I could try and fuse the two together into something more... critic-like for a future post. (Let's just all pretend that I'll actually get round to doing that shall we? Please?)

In the meantime I chewed up Heavy Rain in two sessions and came away feeling really negative about the whole experience. My reaction to the game surprised me especially after all the great press and previews it had gotten over the past few years. In my eyes the game pushed the visual boundaries of 'realism' and subsequently lost most of what gives a game its soul in the process. I'd like to say it was a brave vision that died due to a thousand little cuts, but that would be an outright lie. I'm not even sure if it was a great vision after all, or a technical achievement for videogames. It seemed more misguided and insulting than anything else to me. I always felt David Cage himself was leaning out of the TV ordering me to appreciate his wonderful vision and all the emotional depth he had poured into the code himself.

But that's quite enough of the negative because I played a game this evening that really surprised me. This time in a good way and Fragile Dreams on the Wii has come completely out of the blue. I've heard nothing about it and knew even less until I started playing it this evening. From what I can gather it's a survival horror adventure set after a apocalypse-like event that's left most of the Earth's population dead or missing. This clichéd setting doesn't feel clichéd at all and that's probably due to the stunning visuals on offer and its quintessential Japanese style.

The first couple of hours are spent in a crumbling subway station but when you emerge from the tunnel into the open air, the visuals of the dawn sky are pretty moving. It also has an unsettling feel with typical Japanese enemies of abstract matter appearing in front of you. It even made me jump when I found writhing arms coming out of the walls and it shares more than a passing similarity with both classic Silent Hill and the recent Shattered Memories.

What sold it to me more than anything else was its indirect storytelling. I have no idea how the earth ended up like it has but by collecting certain items you can listen to memories of events in the past by your campfire. The first instance of this involves a mother and her daughter to whom a promise is made that she won;t leave her. There are shades of Bioshock's audio diaries here but more accurate would be the memories in Lost Odyssey as they seem to have the potential to be just as moving. Then of course I met the girl from the memories, now a ghost and demanding to play a game of "hide and go-seek" in order to obtain a key off her (some game design doesn't change!) After I successfully locating her there was a brief but moving reunion with her dead mother before they turned to light and rose up into the sky.

In just two hours I felt Fragile Dreams had done what Heavy Rain couldn't manage with the PS3's power and eight hours of my time. It's not a fair comparison but I know which I've enjoyed playing the most so far and I 'm truly intrigued to see what direction this unknown Wii game is going to take. I just wish I wasn't such a wuss when it comes to horror games.


  1. I'm with you Adam on Heavy Rain for the most part, although I still enjoyed the game at times just on a pure level of drama at any one moment. But there's definitely that edge of Cage there over your shoulder whispering in your ear that you should like this game and if you don't, well, you just don't get it.
    As for Fragile Dreams, I reviewed it a while back for Reso. I'm surprised by your comments about the opening two hours, I had huge problems with the narrative and especially the characters there. But yes, getting out of the tunnel and seeing that sky was great. I'll be interested to hear your final thoughts, maybe we can compare reviews ;)

  2. @Raz & Sinan - From a dramatic point of view I can understand how the game could entice you into its world; especially to those non-gamers who can instantly draw parallels between TV drama's and Heavy Rain's presentation. I think the same would've happened to me with my other half if I had played this in the living room. Maybe viewing it as an alternative to watching 24 or The Wire would have been more appropriate than my lofty expectations!
    I finished my review this afternoon so once that's gone up on GamePeople I'll link to it and post it here as well. What I realised when writing it was that the drive to push 'realistic' games/stories doesn't' seem the best way to push mature storytelling along. When I think of all the awesome and moving experiences I've had with videogames it's usually been with a fantastical role-playing game set in a fantasy/science/fiction world.
    Without the restrictions and boundaries of the real world to get in the way I've found those games to be much more meaningful. Heavy Rain on the hand has so many little (and big) flaws that break the illusion of reality and made all that drama so meaningless to me.
    But hey, I know a lot of people disagree and I'm glad that the game was actually made in the first place. And I 'm glad you liked the game Raz - I'll just be that 'ol misery guts in the corner :)
    Thankfully I can now listen to BRP in full now!

  3. @Sinan - (Fragile Dreams) It's funny how first impressions differ from person to person and even more hilarious how many times I've done a complete 180 on a game after my initial positive impressions. Yeah, Fragile Dream got a little wacky after my first session with it. I still like it (for some Japanesey unfathomable reason) but some of the narrative has become a little, er… broken and balls-out odd.
    Hopefully it won't take long to finish so I can splurge a few words out and compare experiences with you :)