Saturday, 18 October 2014

Isolation on the Sevastapol

I feel so... trapped. My crew mates; they burned out on the space walk from our vessel Torrens and now I’m half-mad trying to get back to it (if it’s even still there!) But I know what awaits... I have to stumble through this space vessel to send any communication back.

I... simply... must... get... away. God knows what my mother - Ellen Ripley - makes of all this? I'm wimping out already. If only I’d watched all the movies back to back over the period of a week... before... all this. I’m just not sleeping. I can hear the air release from air-lock doors in my nightmares. And even worse... I’m back in the 1980's. 

A cool, spooky thing about all this - I suppose - is that the world-makers have resisted any attempt to update the artistic details to some far future. They've kept everything authentic to the movie. How many more movies could they do this with? I'm thinking The Millennium Falcon...

For now though… I’m trapped in a 1980's horror/vision of a far space future.. and it’s cold. Lonely.

I can’t think too much. I just can't! The thing may start breathing around every corner and I must keep trying to make contact and to search for missing crew, from both vessels.

I live every moment... sneaking around, like a little girl. Just like ‘Newt’ must have done in that decent sequel.

What else to report? It’s not unlikely that I’m bound for a sticky end. Multiple ones. This must be one of the most realistic experiences of feeling hunted out there. Real survival simulation. If spiders and humanity were reversed. Or Jurassic Park. Or Quake 3(?)... where, if memory serves, you stroll boldly through level one, before all hell literally breaks out and you must flee back out again through a ruined and broken version of the same level.

Each level here is an area of the space station, elaborate and once-functioning. I move through the desolate rooms knowing it’s very possible I’ll have to return, only under more deadly conditions. A big concern though: will this sort of game-play keep me playing? What is my threshold of fear? And when will I encounter a level so difficult I will simply not come back. That is the nightmare balance for the game designers with such a game. It is also where their sticky web still pulls us players in… What will we learn about? Out here, in the depth of space, in these claustrophobic retro-rooms... Our resourcefulness? Our love of finding out what has happened...

What would be my ideal Alien game? I think ultimately I want the best of both worlds, one where the Alien is forcing us into corners, and one where there are hordes and we must blast our way out, losing our comrades as we go. This Isolation game will not be the last. But it does the former very well, and pulls off a huge homage to the original film. As Ridley Scott the director says: the universe is just as important as a character of the film. The tools such as the Motion Tracker work to enhance the tension.

Somehow I can see a time where in-depth single-player experiences like this are just one part of a larger package. For the aficionados.
The other? It could be some Co-operative or Multi-player option, where we are thrown into the space station with others and we can work together, or play out roles. Or an MMORG where complete freedom of game-play and exploration presents an incredibly vivid sci-fi experience. These will be masterpieces of excitement.  

Final update:

It all became too much. I blame it on time and old age but also one of the levels - seriously - would not let me into the next, even though I'd outwitted the Alien and returned to some cowardly doctor with the goods. And I'm just not that hard on myself to re-play that section in the hope it doesn't trap me there again. So... therein can be the problem with such intense game-play. However, I will not forget the sight of being decisively run through inside some elevator just as I was about to make a more dignified exit. If I could have sworn without waking the household it would have sounded like some hissing Alien humanoid hybrid. I better just say for the record that I've never felt such involvement in a game before. The potent device of the Alien presence serves to escalate the involvement of the player with the world presented and the need to use that world to progress, to fight and to escape...


I moved onto the bonus mission where you can re-play the scene from the Nostromo (original Alien movie) and play as one of the characters. I made it through that - an impressive, gruelling experience - and the thought of being back in that film world thrilled and rewarded me, and that has since been enough! Sevastopol out. Taxi Torrens for one please! Next stop... cryo-sleep... into the sequel!?  #alienisolation

ZEN PINBALL: Take on the challenge, available on most platforms... [Youtube trailer]