Yesterday, we were invited for a special preview of what is in stoer for players when the game launches on Sunday, April 1st at 12 PM SLT.
We arrived, on a misty evening, to find ourselves on top of a bridge that towers high above the valley. Kiana Writer, the head of MadPea, had transported us there herself but players will arrive here after an initial orientation session during which they will acquire the mobile phone HUD that will be their interface to the major interactive elements of the game.
“I assume you have both seen the video, so you know the basics.” says Kiana. “The player wakes up without a memory and finds himself on this bridge, covered in blood and drugged”, she pauses, the briefest of smiles flickers across her lips, as she delights in the telling of her story, “… and he starts getting phonecalls.”
Nearby to the starting point is the Sanity Inn. Not a place I’d choose to stay personally but it has some important clues to start you on your way.
You enter the Inn and start to look around, as you do, audio clues will embellish the In world interactions.
This is weird. I have no memory of ever being here, but I see my signature, and Livea’s.. which cottage did we rent? I should check that out. Maybe Livea is there and this is just a bad dream.
The game is interactive as many of previous MadPea stories and this one is “ten times more immersive than Peatonville” which is really quite a claim.
I will be careful to avoid spoilers in here but pretty quickly the player will realise that his wife has been kidnapped, and that unless he can raise one million dollars in 24 hours, his wife will be killed.
To fue gameplay MadPea are giving away a complete avatar, so those who wish to, can truly immerse themselves into the character.
There are posters around the town and each has a unique phone number which when dialled will result in a new clue. streaming audio is used to great effect with the phone calls. With each clue comes a land mark that will transport the player to somewhere on the grid, a hunt location, they must find the hunt prize in order to secure part of the 1 million dollar ransom.
The road back across the bridge leads down through the woodlands into the town. A number of cabins are tucked away in the trees as you descend to the town.
The road winds through highly detailed countryside, the eery gloom of the graphics enhanced by those MadPea sound details which so impressed me in Peatonville.
The town is, not unexpectedly, deserted and there are some rather worryingly unexplained bullet holes in the window of a certain store.The mist hangs above it, casting a shadow over the entire area.
The build quality is, as we have come to expect, superb; yet it is in the combination of build aesthetics, audio and scripting that the game comes to life. Interactions cannot be easily triggered by those who like to “cam”; proximity detectors are used on many scripted items including the doors. Yes, you will have to walk up to the door to open it!
The immersiveness is enhanced by the audible calls on the phone, the crunch of the gravel underfoot. You know full well that if Kiana and her team could make you smeel the smouldering cigarette in the ash tray, you’d be smelling it right now. This story has many levels, think you know what is going on? Don’t be too sure, you have played a MadPea story before right?
There is more to the game visuals than the gritty ghost town. At varioous points the player will be drawn into dream sequences.
I will not talk about their content beyond the screenshots but suffice to say, the artists have gone wild on these and they are a visual and technical treat.
Back to our adventure, the clock is ticking, a life hangs in the balance.
The main street through the town loops through a small tunnel beneath a movie theatre; litter, caught up in small eddys of wind, twists and rolls across the street. You shiver involuntarily as you step into the shadows.
This is not a video game, the medium that MadPea choose to express themselves through has its challenges and nuances. You won’t find the slick inter-cutting of pre-rendered movies nor high-end AI characters with which to interact, but does it need it? There are many ways to tell a tale and this is virtual, interactive fiction at its best.
Do not expect to feel welcome here. Do not expect to feel comfortable and safe. Turn off the lights, put on your headset and prepare to be on the edge of your seat. Prepare for Sanity Falls.