I usually start my reviews by furnishing the reader with a couple of points to help them gain a basic understanding of the game I’m rabbiting on about. Things like how many donuts I managed to eat while playing it, the number of hours it took before I threw my iPhone at the wall in frustration, and most of the time, the game’s plot.
I say most of the time, because after playing Awake – Horror At Point Thatcher for a couple of days, I still have absolutely no idea what this game about, what it wants me to do, or even what my name is (that last one is a problem I occasionally suffer from in real life ).
First let’s deal with the things I do know:
1. This is a point and click adventure set in Rhode Island.
2. That’s it.
Starting up, you’re presented with a text conversation between Cassilda and Camilla about The King, and how he’s taken Camilla’s power to escape her dreams. Who are these two women? Why does one of them want to escape her dreams? Since when did Rhode Island have a King?
Next, the screen shakes, and you’re told there’s been an earthquake which results in a strange blue shaft of light shooting skywards from the ground. From then on, it’s adventure time. And I use that term loosely.
At this point, I had to go back to the AppStore to figure out what was going on. If I didn’t, I would never have found out that the ‘fate of the waking world rests in your hands as a New England village becomes the gateway through which the Great Old Ones use human nightmares to flood the world with their monsters.’ I would’ve continued thinking it was an action title set in the 1980′s about an insomniac British Prime Minister who doubles as a serial killer. The game certainly doesn’t give you any clues – there are no help or instructions to speak of, and you’re thrown straight in. When you have to consult the AppStore to learn a game’s backstory, it’s not a good start.
The main screen is broken up into three sections – a text description of your current plight (where I spotted more than one spelling mistake – a ‘can alarm’, for example, is obviously someone standing outside your car waiting for robbers with a bottle of Fanta), a graphical representation of where you are, and directional arrows to navigate your way through the town. Apologies if you were expecting intricate art or complex 3D graphics, It’s nothing special to look at.
As you move around, the text lets you know where you are with l description which can be illogical at times; despite the earthquake that happened only moments ago, ‘Old Man Pendergrass was sleep on his front porch.’ Not a light sleeper then.
You’re also armed with a diary which updates as you discover new areas, a map and a rucksack which acts as an inventory. Although it’s debatable how useful the items you pick up actually are.
Case in point; you’ll often encounter random monsters and assailants who you must defeat through combat. In one scenario, I stumbled across a particularly grumpy foreman in a factory who insisted on killing me. But having brandished the shotgun I’d picked up earlier, and selected the option to attack, all I was greeted with was a perfunctory ‘I tried to attack Factory Foreman, but failed.’
It must also be mentioned this guy had a triangular hat that covered his entire head (his in-game picture looks unintentionally hilarious). How he managed to defeat me when I was packing a weapon that could easily blow his face off I have no idea.
But anyway, why exactly did I fail? Was it because I’d decided against using the shotgun and tried to bribe him instead? Or perhaps he realised he couldn’t see anything because of his stupid hat and legged it? Either way, combat requires no skill or timing, the outcome of each battle seems to be decided totally at random.
These scenes are also incredibly boring. Every fight plays out in a similar way:
I approached the Naked Chef Beast.
(Tap the attack button.)
I successfully attacked the Naked Chef Beast.
Naked Chef Beast is bruised!
(Bruised? I attacked it with a freaking shotgun!)
What should I do now?
(Yes, the game actually asks you this question.)
I attacked the Naked Chef Beast.
(Here we go again.)
And so on. EVERY time. Please note, as I tangle with triangular hat wearing attackers and other assorted horrors, I still have no idea what my character’s name is.
There isn’t much to the rest of the gameplay, head in a certain direction, enter building, look around for objects, pick up objects and perhaps have a boring fight with a monster. No puzzles to solve, levelling up to do or clues to piece together. It’s stale from the beginning.
Add to this the fact you seem to die at arbitrary moments, with the game informing you that you ‘ran out of time’ (thanks for telling me I had a time limit in the first place), and what you end up with is pretty dull.
Considering the game advises ‘the only way to escape the nightmare is to stay awake’, the fact you’ll struggle to keep your eyes open is one heck of an irony. I ended up ignoring it’s advice and falling asleep as method of eschewal. I thought the risk was worth it.
There isn’t anything exciting, and very little that’s interesting about Awake – Horror At Point Thatcher. It presents itself as a huge mystery waiting to be solved, and there probably is a decent one in there somewhere, but unless triangular hat wearing factory workers are your thing, it doesn’t offer any compelling reason to find it.