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%26rsquo;re not bad puzzles. Not enormously inspired either. But it%26rsquo;s hard to understand what they%26rsquo;re doing in Penumbra%26rsquo;s world. You%26rsquo;re collecting peculiar glowing orbs in order to open, er, portals. As if this weren%26rsquo;t unsubtle enough, there%26rsquo;s an additional strict female voice making announcements as you progress. Complete a puzzle and you%26rsquo;re teleported into a brand new area, starting from scratch.
The most likely thing is that Frictional recognized the incredibly positive feedback Penumbra%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;t offer the same charm.
However, at $10(viaGamersgate), it%26rsquo;s four or five hours of decent environmental challenges in a great engine. That%26rsquo;s not so bad. It%26rsquo;s just not up to the standards of the game it%26rsquo;s adding on to.
Nov 6, 2008