Mixing things up here a little, I'm going to start doing some video game reviews! Not just any games, though; I'm looking at games made with the RPG Maker engine, just like my own Lucidity. Today I'm looking at a game called (have you guessed?) False Awakening made by Salik Hussain. I've only checked out the first installment so far, but I definitely have enough to say to fill up this page; I'm hoping to review the rest of the series later on, so be on the look-out for that.
Well, I guess my very first impression was the splash screen, which looked professional, but what else is there to say about a screen that hangs around two seconds? After that, we're dropped right into the game, bypassing any sort of title screen to get us started. That only happens when you don't have a save file to continue from, and it's actually a really smooth way to get us started, with virtually no transition.
The game starts in a sort of tutorial area. Button functions are labeled, telling you how to move and interact, but there's not really anything to do here; everybody you talk to speaks gibberish and going in one door only leads you out of another in the same area. What's really striking about this first scene is the aesthetic. There's fog rolling through, there are flickering lights, and all the people are represented as shapes full of static. More on all of that later, but suffice it to say that the game immediately gives strong images that made me want to play it.
Wow. Really, I've played countless corporate-made games that don't rival the atmosphere built into this. The lighting effects were the first thing to grab my attention. This is a game set in a dream world, and the graphics really reflected that perfectly. The lighting combined with the fog and characters were enough to make me pinch myself, just in case I was dreaming. The ambiance is dark and mysterious in some places and in others it's downright radiant.
As I'm looking at all of this, taking it in, a serene but haunting melody is playing, drawing me deeper into that world. The music works wonders with the visuals to enhance the experience. I found this especially true starting out, when I was first getting into the game, but the trend kept up throughout. I got to the end without once thinking that any sound or image was out of place, even in this wide ambiguous dream space.
I'll just say what I'm thinking here: the story was dope. It was obscure and puzzling enough that it could have only made sense in a dream, but it was coherent enough for me to build a general understanding of what I needed to follow. For as much as I liked the story, I wish there had been more of it. Basically, the main character is dreaming. At first we only get hints of this from the atmosphere and interactions, but the realization dawns fairly quickly. After that, well...not much happens. We explore our lucid dream and experiment with our dream powers until we finally reach an ominous door with great promise of expanding the story...
And that's the end of Episode 1. Honestly, it's not much to go on; I think I ended with more questions than answers. Even so, I wasn't disappointed. This small amount of story ranges from disturbingly dark to comical and even tragic. It's all well written and the dialogue is casual and conversational. Considering the length of the game (it's maybe half an hour long if you don't run into any problems with it), the story seemed to fit it just right.
This is really where I ran into snags with the game. My first gripe is irellevant to anybody who doesn't use a controller, but I found the gamepad controls needed a little help. The D-pad doesn't work, restricting you to the joystick, and I couldn't find the right button to dash. Also, I found I wasn't able to navigate the menu from my controller. The mouse controls were also a little unreliable; I found my character frequently walking into walls instead of around them. Using the keyboard, however (which is probably the intended input), was flawless, and the first area laid out the controls organically so that I learned what keys to press quickly without any interruption to gameplay.
At one point in the game, you're running around a hospital (I think?) and gunning everyone down. This was pretty dark, but my only real complaint was that I got stuck here a few times. I walked through a wall at some point, ending up suspended above the action, and at another point the game hung after shooting some poor possibly innocdent hospital worker. Actually, that hang after shooting happened in various places three out of the four times I went through there. Finally, the doors in this area occasionally behave a little weird, which at once added to the dream logic, but also took me back a step from the game.
Otherwise, the gameplay was fantastic. It's a very linear game where the only challenge is figuring out where to walk or talk next, so the basic controls were perfect. Despite being very short, the internal and external dialogues kept me engaged. Some players will find that there's not enough (or really any) action, but this game never advertises itself as anything but what it is, and it's unlikely that seekers of action are going to come to it anyway.
Honestly, this is a far from perfect game. The few bugs made me restart several times, there were some (albiet brief) instances of lag, and it's just not long enough to give a truly deep experience. Even with all of that being the case, playing this was awesome. I'd absolutely do it again and absolutely reccommend it to anybody else. I had a blast, from start to finish, and who needs a game to be perfect, anyway?
So is it worth the price? Well, it's free, so yes...but also, I've seen commercial games fail in places where this one excelled. It's worth more than free, so maybe you could consider making the creator a donation when you download it. Thanks for reading my shitty opinions and I hope you enjoy playing False Awakening Episode 1 as much as I did!
Check out this game and others by the same maker here: sigmasuccour.itch.io
I'm just gonna leave this right here for later... You're welcome.