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The game that was never going to be. Penumbra developers, Frictional, had a confusing time after releasing their remarkable indie project, Penumbra: Overture. The planned trilogy was quickly truncated into a two-parter, using a student-made engine comparable to those of professional, multi-million dollar companies. Both were great; the sequel Black Plague learned from errors in the first and created a strong, spooky horror. Which makes Requiem, an add-on requiring Black Plague, difficult to understand.
Gone are the spooks, enemies and story, only to be replaced by a collection of environmental puzzles. They’re not bad puzzles. Not enormously inspired either. But it’s hard to understand what they’re doing in Penumbra’s world. You’re collecting peculiar glowing orbs in order to open, er, portals. As if this weren’t unsubtle enough, there’s an additional strict female voice making announcements as you progress. Complete a puzzle and you’re teleported into a brand new area, starting from scratch.
The most likely thing is that Frictional recognized the incredibly positive feedback Penumbra’s environmental puzzles had garnered, and chose to exploit this. In the context of a horror adventure, realizing that the means of escape from a room involved manipulating the furniture to build escape routes, or that breaking down a shed allowed you to use parts to create a path across thin ice, was jolting and refreshing. Superb physics, combined with atmospheric lighting and a constant sense of dread, were excellent conditions in which to find a solution. Removing every bit of that but for the puzzle just doesn’t offer the same charm.
However, at $10 (via Gamersgate), it’s four or five hours of decent environmental challenges in a great engine. That’s not so bad. It’s just not up to the standards of the game it’s adding on to.
Nov 6, 2008
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