CO-VODs: for when you’re too ill to play
You know what they say about best laid plans going awry.
Regardless of how well organised you are, there’s always a chance something is going to come along and screw with you. You can figure out your blog schedule some time in advance, intend to get a big project finished, feel like you’re going to have a few productive days and make plenty of progress – and then it all goes out the window.
This is what happened to me last week. Right now you should be reading about our trip to Phantom Peak and what a great time we had, or my thoughts on Stray and what it was spending several hours as a cat. But no: instead I’m writing about how COVID-19 decided to put a stop to that. Pete and I have done well to avoid it since 2020 but the virus finally caught up with us.
We’ve spent the past seven days with painful sore throats and drifting between sleeping and staring at the wall. Thankfully we’re both on the mend now and can start getting back on track this week. Our Phantom Peak tickets have been moved to September, Stray remains unfinished for now and I’m behind on all my work projects, but at least I finally have the energy to sit in front of my laptop again.
Shortly after testing positive, Pete made a comment about how COVID should be a good excuse to play video games all day. What we found though was that it was too difficult to concentrate on anything for more than a couple of minutes and so picking up a controller wasn’t feasible. Instead, we turned to longplay videos on YouTube to get our gaming fix and save us from the monotony of daytime television. Here’s a round-up of the playthroughs we’ve watched over the past week.
We turned to longplay videos on YouTube to get our gaming fix and save us from the monotony of daytime television.
While I enjoy watching others play horror games, I’m usually too much of a wimp to play them myself. But I’d spoken to friend-of-the-blog Phil previously about his experience of The Quarry and he thought I’d be able to manage this one – and I think he was right because it just wasn’t scary. While I loved the theme and style of this title, there was only one jump-scare which got a reaction out of me. I also struggled to figure out whether it was trying to be a serious horror or was going for a more B-movie vibe.
I think my biggest problem with it was the characters. They weren’t necessarily unlikeable, but each neatly fit into horror stereotypes and several felt very one-dimensional. After Dylan gets attacked and Ryan does a quick attempt at surgery with a chainsaw, they all walk around as if nothing has happened except to occasionally remind each other not to mention his hand. It was only really Laura who I found interesting and wanted to know more about, thanks to her decisive actions and no-nonsense attitude.
Those Who Remain
This game had been on my wishlist since 17 March 2020 and I’m sorry to say I’m glad I ended up watching a playthrough instead of trying to play it myself. It tries to be atmospheric and thought-provoking with its story, but it sadly ends up coming across like a mediocre Alan Wake clone in which all the combat has been removed. Something horrible has happened in town, stay away from the things lurking in the shadows, try not to lose your mind while you investigate – you get the picture.
I dozed off during several puzzle sequences, including one set in a maze where the player must collect lion status and place them correctly to reveal the path, because they were rather boring. And the sections where you go into another version of the world to overcome an obstacle aren’t really explained so they feel like a cheap mechanic. If you do decide to watch a playthrough for yourself, choose a different video than the one I ended up with (opposite) unless you want to skip through an advertisement every five minutes.
Virtual reality (VR) titles are prone to being short and so I didn’t expect an incredibly long game, but I was shocked to see that the video for the playthrough wasn’t much over an hour. Still, at least it meant I could watch it without falling asleep halfway through. There were certain elements I quite enjoyed, such as the full-motion video (FMV) diary entries by the family members which helped explain how they were feeling, and an atmosphere which made it seem like something threatening was in the shadows.
However, that’s not to say it’s a great game. There were other elements which implied a situation of domestic abuse and addiction which make for uncomfortable viewing, and the ending isn’t very well explained. Creative Director Elijah Wood and his team may think that something like Transference has never been done before, but it has and it’s been done better. You’re better off watching (or playing) SOMA as it addresses similar ideas and themes in a much clearer and more considered way.
Choosing to watch a playthrough of this game following on from Transference was coincidental and I didn’t realise how similar their themes would be. The first chapter introduced a story which touched on all the subjects I find interesting in video games: artificial intelligence (AI), an investigation into a mysterious murder, the impact of the digital on the real world and the ethics of such situations. The voice-acting was also good and the protagonist likeable, so I had high hopes for the rest of the title.
Its only downside for me was the ending. A particular choice presented in the last section came around rather abruptly and, because not a lot of information about what was happening was provided, it felt as though it would have been too difficult to decide as a player. Perhaps my COVID-induced state was impairing my thinking and I would have understood more if I’d been well. The Signifier was the best playthrough I watched last week, but probably also the game I should have played instead of watched.
Martha Is Dead
There was some controversy about this title after PlayStation made the decision to remove certain scenes and references. You’ve probably read an article or two about the section which features the cutting of a corpse’s face. But I’d played the developers previous release a few years ago and was aware of the sort of thing I’d be getting myself into. I felt prepared for a game which would be full of harrowing depictions, uncomfortable viewing, mental health trauma and no happy endings.
What I wasn’t prepared for though was the nausea. There was something about the movement which gave me motion sickness and trying to keep on top of that alongside the COVID was horrible. After 30 minutes or so (and making it through the cutting scene), I decided to stop the video. I’d like to go back to it at some point once I’m feeling completely better as the voice-acting was good and I want to know what all the fuss is about. Does Martha Is Dead deserve the controversy it received?
The situation here in the UK may be getting better but the virus is still out there, and there’s no way I’d want to put my body through that again.
After a week of being in bed and stuck on the sofa, I’m now back on my laptop and at work again. Hopefully that means we’ll be back to playing video games again for ourselves soon too. We still need to finish the last act of Inscryption; I’ve got Kentucky Route Zero acts to complete after making a promise to Luke from Hundstrasse; plus Stray needs to be started. And with GameBlast23 coming up in February next year, we need to start figuring out a plan for the next event.
COVID is no joke. The situation here in the UK may be getting better but the virus is still out there, and there’s no way I’d want to put my body through that again. Look after yourselves and take care.