Describing the purpose of Ryan Amusements isn’t enough. To really understand and appreciate its creepiness, you need to know the details. Here, then, is a sampling of what we experienced there:
•A sign proudly proclaiming that admission to the park is “half-price for children under 3!” They want the kids terrified before they learn how to talk, after all.
•Robotic animatronics of Andrew Ryan, which introduce you to various sections of the park. They move a little creakily, but are otherwise dead-on doppelgangers of the late, great founder. Shame about the half-melted faces…
•A museum timeline of Rapture’s conception and construction, with a diorama and audio guide for each stage. Walk through quickly and the founding appears mythically grand. Study the setup more closely and you’ll notice the resemblance between those early workers and the later Big Daddies. Listen more carefully and you’ll discover that chunks of audio are suspiciously missing... or censored.
•“Journey to the Surface,” the theme park’s star attraction. The ride doesn’t actually run anymore, what with its broken cars and bent rails, but you can still go through on foot and see the gruesome sights of socialism. Like the farmer tilling dutifully in his fields, until a giant red hand (“the parasite”) reaches in from offstage, tears off his house’s roof and steals his livelihood. Like the innocent child watching television with his family, until a giant red hand reaches in from offstage, pulls him out the front door and forces him into the military. Like the scientist inventing in his laboratory, until a giant red hand… well, you get the idea.
•Heavy-handed street names that drill these points in even deeper. Forget “Main Street USA”; here, you’ll cross the intersection of “Welfare Street” and “War Street” on your way to “Conformity & Co.” Subtle!
•Exhibits that teach children why it’s cool to use plasmids. Hey Johnny, first date? Girlfriend a little chilly? Don’t offer her your letter jacket – impress her with the warmth of Incinerate.
•A Big Brother level of security. Cameras everywhere. Rapture ID checkpoints. Gun racks full of assault weapons. For what’s supposed to be just an amusement park.
While much of BioShock 2 is a departure from the original, you’re still exploring the same ruined utopia. And while many of its most famous residents were murdered (by you) in the first game, their influence clearly remains. We discovered many chilling references to past characters and settings, such as a billboard advertising beauty products “by J. Steinman.” A perfect gift for that special someone? Probably not, since Steinman is the name of the deranged plastic surgeon from BioShock 1, who was obsessed with transforming women’s faces into surreal, asymmetrical pieces of “art.”
Later, we came across theater posters for “The Black Dream – An Experimental Film starring Sander Cohen.” Is a lovely evening of refined entertainment in store? We doubt it, since Cohen was the first game’s most despised adversary, a tyrannical playwright who suffocated his former lovers, posed their bodies in plaster casts and ordered you to arrange them into “masterpieces.”
We know these characters (probably) can’t return from the dead in BioShock 2, but the evidence of their madness can live on forever.
Then there are the little things… the tiny touches that can’t be categorized by the nine entries above. Such as shooting the spear gun and watching an enemy’s body fly across the room, nothing more than a piece of scrapmeat pulled on an invisible string. Or the bare feet of a random Splicer, which have been genetically altered into the shape of high heel shoes, complete with an attached spike made out of flesh. Or walking into the clichéd horror game restroom, finding nothing scary whatsoever, then being surprised by a shadow as soon as you turn to leave.
Remember, all of this – every creepy element we’ve just written about – was experienced within a couple hours of BioShock 2. A level and a half at most. We can’t wait to tremble before the rest.
Oct 29, 2009