Nov. 12th, 2015

healyg: (Freaked-out Fujiko)
Hello, all and sundry! We're in the final stretch of the IF Comp judging period, so I'll be reviewing one game a day until Saturday, November 14th. (That's an extra 4 reviews!) Up next, it's Hugo Labrande's Life on Mars?

Life on Mars? (the question mark is very important) is a horror game about an astronaut, named Charlotte, who is the only survivor of a shuttle to Mars. Alone and depressed, she spends most of her days in the Martian base checking her email and listening to music. Until a new shuttle arrives in five months, she's all alone in the base... Or is she? I thought the game's portrayal of Charlotte and her depression was very well done, especially the way it gets that depression can make you think and act like, well, kind of a jerk. It also nailed the horror atmosphere and tension, especially in the creepy, surreal dream sequence near the end. (The game has some help in this respect from the optional playlist provided by the author. I would really recommend playing the game with this going on in the background.)

The bulk of the writing in Life on Mars? is taken up by the emails, and I have to say, they're really well done. They help paint a fascinating picture of the space company that sent the shuttle and Charlotte to Mars (not a very flattering one, mind), and also help bring Charlotte's co-workers and old friends to life. I also liked Charlotte's asides about the emails, displayed in the right-hand margin; I thought they were a good way to get another look inside her head.

Unfortunately, I also hit a couple snags in the game. I personally thought most of the real time effects were overdone, sometimes moving s o s l o w l y as to make me worry that the game had frozen. (I didn't mind the effects on the emails so much, but that was because you could speed the text up by holding down enter.) Also, I found the ending very puzzling. I realize that it's supposed to be ambiguous, but I still would have liked more details, even if they don't answer anything. Like, what was up with the monster? Did it get Charlotte at the end? Was the monster... DEPRESSION??? Still, even these issues can't really bring the game down.


Conclusion: Click for verdict )

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