2053: Back to Work

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I had my first “proper” day at a new (part-time, seasonal, temporary) retail job today. While I’ve been earning a bit of money through some freelance work recently, it hasn’t really been “stable” enough to provide predictable income, so I had been looking around for other opportunities for a while. One such opportunity presented itself, and while it wasn’t what I’d maybe call my ideal job — minimum wage, part-time, seasonal, temporary — it is at least both relevant to my skills and interests.

I’ve worked retail before and was surprised at both how much I actually quite enjoyed it and the fact I seemingly had a reasonably natural “talent” for it. While I talk a lot about my social anxiety and shyness, this largely relates to being stuck in a “small talk” situation with someone else; when I’m given something clear and structured to talk to people about — such as selling them something — I generally have no problems with communicating, and I like to think I come across as personable and friendly. So far my experiences with returning to the retail environment after a few years away have backed that up.

Among other things, it’s quite nice to have a reason to get out of the house for a few hours. Working from home, as I’ve mentioned before, sounds like a dream come true, but in reality it’s a fairly miserable and lonely existence a lot of the time, particularly if you find yourself going through something of a dry spell with assignments. Sure, you can talk to people on the Internet, but it’s not quite the same as being surrounded by actual real living and breathing people you can look in the eye and hear the voices of. Despite everything I may have indicated to the contrary here on these very pages, I do actually quite like having company sometimes, particularly if they’re people I get along with and enjoy spending time with. And while it’s much too early to determine whether or not I’ll truly consider the people I’m working alongside to be “friends” — to be honest, after a few previous negative experiences with what I thought were workplace “friendships”, I’m very much inclined to keep everyone somewhat at arm’s length rather than getting too chummy — I certainly haven’t found myself walking out of the door thinking “what a tosser” about anyone, which is a pleasant position to be in.

When I was younger, I always wondered if I’d “make something” of myself and have an exciting, high-powered job with lots of responsibility or whatever. To be honest, as I get older I’m just content with something I can get on with and not be bothered too much. I’m not going to rule out the possibility of developing a career from this position if the opportunity presents itself once the “seasonal” season is over, but for now I’m just happy to have a bit of semi-predictable money rolling in alongside the more erratic income from freelancing.

I would like to find myself in a position where I can just get on with life without having to wonder if I’m doing enough to “get by”. For a while last year — and on a number of previous occasions — I thought I’d found that, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be. I have low expectations this time around; hopefully that means I won’t be disappointed, regardless of whatever ends up happening in the long term. In the short term, meanwhile, this will at least help me to survive, which is, to be honest, all I’m really concerned with for the moment.

2052: Platinum Grind

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I’m coming up on the Platinum trophy for Hyperdevotion Noire on Vita, and I’ve asked myself more than once why I was doing it, given that it’s completely unnecessary to fully appreciate the game, and has extended what would probably be a 40-50 hour game well over the 100 hour mark.

Despite questioning my motivation a few times, I’ve never found myself resenting the game, somehow — this is partly because I undertook the most grindy of grinds for the Platinum trophy while watching several seasons of Community on Netflix (#teamhandheld) and consequently wasn’t just staring at a screen repeating the same actions over and over again, which is essentially what I was required to do to get 20+ of the trophies in the list.

Now I’m approaching the end of that epic grind, I’m glad that I’ve done it. It hasn’t been difficult in the sense of the game being difficult to complete — on the contrary, once all the characters are level 99 you can steamroller pretty much everything in the game with a few exceptions — but it has been challenging from the perspective of committing to the long-term goal and seeing it through to its conclusion.

This raises an interesting point about the nature of “challenge”. When we talk about “challenge” in games we’re normally referring to something along the lines of Dark Souls, which requires you to understand its systems thoroughly, otherwise it will punish you until you mend your ways and play better. But “challenge” can exist in other ways, too. It can refer to subject matter that makes you uncomfortable — not generally a problem with the Neptunia series, though mk2 does some interesting things with the squick factor and some people still won’t check the series out because of assumptions about fanservice. It can also refer to the challenge of making it through something lengthy and weighty, or holding out in a test of endurance, such as I’ve been doing with Hyperdevotion Noire.

And that, I think, is why I’ve been doing the Platinum grind. The challenge factor. Overcoming challenges is satisfying, even if they’re more endurance than skill. Endurance and patience are worthwhile traits, and I’ve noted on a number of past occasions that I feel my experiences with role-playing games over the years — and my willingness to see them through to the end, even if they have a three- or four-digit hour count — have helped me train these particular abilities in myself. And these abilities are something that transfers across to life at large; it can be difficult to wait for things, or hold out against something that is proving to be an obstacle, but with patience and endurance in spades, you can usually overcome most challenges.

Anyway. After all that, I will say that I will be glad to finally see that Platinum trophy pop in Hyperdevotion Noire, because it means I’ll finally be able to put that game to bed and move on to something else without feeling like I need to try and get anything else out of it. And, as I’ve noted before, it feels good to know that trophies are used as metrics by developers and publishers — unlikely though it might be, someone might see my Platinum trophy in the game and recognise that it is something only achieved by people who have truly engaged with it and want to see everything it has to offer.

Also I can’t break my streak of Platinum trophies on Neptunia games now, can I?

2051: In My Stomach

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is out this week and… I’m not excited at all.

Me not being excited at the latest big new release is nothing new, of course, but this is Metal Gear we’re talking about. I was a huge fan of both Metal Gear Solid and its sequel Sons of Liberty, but kind of fell off the wagon a bit before Snake Eater came out and have still never even touched Guns of the Patriots despite owning a copy. (I fully intend to play them at some point, I might add; I just haven’t done so yet.)

The Phantom Pain feels a bit different, though. My friend Chris and I have been discussing this recently and trying to pin down exactly what it is that’s bothering us both about it — particularly as we’re both fans of the older Metal Gear Solid games as well as Kojima’s batshit craziness.

I think the best way of summing up my feelings towards The Phantom Pain right now is to simply say that everything I hear about it sounds like almost the exact opposite of what I want from a Metal Gear Solid game. Past games were short, tightly focused, highly linear, well-directed experiences that had the pacing and structure of a (particularly long) movie. They kept you always moving onwards because there weren’t any unnecessary side missions or distractions; sure, there were a few secrets here and there that you could dig up if you wanted to, but for the most part things like Sons of Liberty’s dog tags were largely only there for the completionists; I didn’t care about the stats screen at the end of the game — I just liked enjoying the story, and Kojima’s vision for how that story should be presented.

The Phantom Pain, meanwhile, abandons the tight linearity in favour of an open-world environment and (apparently) upwards of 30 hours of gameplay compared to its predecessors’ 6-10. This set off warning bells as soon as it was first announced, I must confess, and what I’m hearing so far isn’t making me feel much better about it. Open worlds are cool technical achievements when done well, but they also often make for rather drab “gameplay by numbers” as you spend all your time looking for little icons on the map, completing arbitrary objectives and killing the pacing of the story, since open world games never, ever have any sense of urgency about them — they tend to be the very worst examples of “the world needs saving, but Armageddon will wait until you’re good and ready”.

Other things that I’m not a fan of the sound of so far are the microtransactions and the resource-gathering, base-building element. I don’t know much about either, to be honest, and it may well be that neither are particularly intrusive to the gameplay experience as a whole, but I don’t like what I have heard so far. I still believe that microtransactions have absolutely no place in a full-price brand-new triple-A game — if you want to get me to pay extra, provide me with some worthwhile content, not a means of paying to win. As for the resource-gathering element, a friend posted a screenshot on Twitter that looked to all intents and purposes like the message you get when logging into a grind-heavy Facebook or mobile game for the first time each day — yes, it’s a Daily Bonus, with rewards for logging in frequently and so forth. Not exactly what I have in mind when I think of the traditionally single-player, offline, “just you and Kojima” experience that is the previous Metal Gear Solid games, though granted I never delved into Metal Gear Online while it was a thing.

Then there’s the fact that several reviews have mentioned the fact that there’s more gameplay than cutscenes, and that the series’ iconic codec conversations have been replaced by cassette tapes that you can listen to while you’re walking around doing things. To be honest, a lot of things are making it sound more like a Splinter Cell game than a Metal Gear Solid game, and this is enormously offputting — Splinter Cell is one of those series that I respected for what it was doing, but just didn’t enjoy at all, and I always greatly preferred Metal Gear’s distinctly “comic book” approach to military espionage action, with all its supervillains, quasi-supernatural powers and giant walking nuclear warhead-equipped death tanks.

I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll end up playing The Phantom Pain at some point, but that time is not right now; the hype is just too much at the moment, and the things I do hear are offputting. I also want to play Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots (and possibly Peace Walker) before I play The Phantom Pain, too, so I feel it’s going to be a while before I jump into Kojima’s swansong for Konami — if indeed I ever jump in at all.

We’ll see. I’m keeping half an eye on people’s reactions to the game now it’s in the hands of American players, but unfortunately as I’ve said so far, the things I have heard aren’t making me want to dash out and grab it as soon as it hits store shelves.

I’m also kind of bummed that Until Dawn came out last week and is promptly going to be forgotten about amid Metal Gear Solid mania — why the hell didn’t they hold that one back until Halloween? Who knows why these people do anything?

2050: Three Hours Until Dawn

0050_001I’ve been really enjoying Until Dawn so far. Not only is it one of the most impressive-looking games I’ve seen for a very long time — the lighting, character models, animation (particularly facial expressions) and overall cinematography are all gobsmacking — it’s also one of the best “interactive movies” I’ve ever played, outdoing all of David Cage’s work in terms of coherence, tension and emotional impact. (And I’m one of the people who actually likes Cage’s work!)

I’m really pleased with how well it balances the interactivity of a game with the storytelling of a movie. Choices you make throughout are meaningful, and are often referred to later through conversations or consequences. Plus, even though everyone knows the worst possible thing you can do in a horror movie is “just go and see what that was”, the game encourages and rewards exploration with hidden collectible items aplenty, each of which contribute to your clue database and help to unravel the several mysteries at the heart of the narrative.

One of the most interesting things about the game is how your choices affect the characters themselves. Each character has a series of “stats” reflecting things like how honest, brave, romantic and funny they are, and the way you choose to have them behave throughout the game affects these stats, which in turn determines how they behave in certain other situations. Alongside these stats are relationship values that increase and decrease according to your choices throughout the game — again, with consequences at certain junctures according to how much the characters like each other.

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The game makes effective use of its multiple characters as a means of presenting the player with different perspectives on the story. Individual characters by themselves might not know exactly what is going on, but by seeing what is happening to each of them, you can start to put the pieces together yourself. Like a visual novel, the game also encourages repeat playthroughs to discover all the collectible clues and piece together what happened, and I can already see a number of obvious branching points based on decisions I’ve made — with some of the more drastic choices resulting in the (apparent) death of one or more of the characters. (I say “apparent” because the game has pulled the “that person couldn’t have survived that… unless…” thing more than once so far — plus it’s apparently possible to get through the whole thing with everyone surviving.)

It makes nice use of timed decisions and quick-time events, too. Quick-time events are loathed and detested by an awful lot of people, but I’ve actually rather liked them since the phrase was coined way back in ShenmueUntil Dawn makes relatively sparing use of them throughout, and they help add a great deal of tension to already nerve-wracking scenes that have made my palms sweaty more than once. Perhaps the best part of the game’s use of quick-time events, however, is the fact that the game occasionally requires you to not do anything at all — literally. “DON’T MOVE!” urges the screen, and the game begins tracking your real-life movement through the motion sensors in the controller. It’s hyper-sensitive, too, so the slightest movement and you’ll be discovered. (You can, of course, cheat the system by resting your controller on something, but it’s more fun to grip it tightly in your hands and hold your breath.)

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On that note, it’s also gratifying that in a number of situations, not making a choice is also a valid choice. I liked this when I saw it in visual novel/interactive anime School Days HQ; I liked it when Telltale used it in some of its games; and I like it very much here. Until Dawn takes School Days’ approach on a number of occasions — presenting you with a single (rather than binary) choice on screen and giving you a few seconds to decide whether or not to do it. These choices usually involve choosing whether or not to use violence to solve a situation and have tight timers, so you have to think fast about what the consequences might be — or simply throw caution to the wind and try to deal with whatever happens a bit later.

I have a few more chapters of the game still to go, and the story has thrown up some interesting twists that I sort of half-saw coming but wasn’t sure about — I’m generally not all that great at spotting twists ahead of time, I must confess — so I’m intrigued to see where it all ends up, and who, if anyone, is going to walk away from that mountain retreat.

It’s been a great experience so far, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone looking for something a bit different from the usual “run and gun” nature of triple-A spectacles.

2049: Dear Diary

0049_001There are times when I wonder whether this blog is the best way to handle getting thoughts out of my head in some form or another.

I used to keep a diary when I was younger. I’m not really sure why; I think it was partly due to the fact that I very much enjoyed the Adrian Mole books and fancied myself as being a similar sort of person to him in some ways. (I later realised that Adrian was a bit of a twat — or at least became a bit of a twat in the later books — and rescinded my earlier appraisal.) Mostly, though, it was about the fact that I enjoyed writing and found it cathartic, particularly if there were things bothering me.

I remember my first diary. It was a really nice leather-bound book with lovely paper, and it said “Journal” on the side of it. It was a souvenir from somewhere or other; I forget exactly where, but my first entry recounted a trip with my parents to the thrilling-sounding National Stone Centre, and subsequent entries had a touch of the “scrapbook” about them, with bits and pieces stuck in and all manner of things.

Then one day I decided to change things up a bit. I decided to use my diary as something a little more personal. Rather than effectively doing what I would do in a school English class — “today we went to [x] and did [y], it was [z]” — I decided that I would use the diary as a means of expressing the thoughts, feelings and emotions that I felt unable or hesitant to talk about with anyone, be it my friends or relatives.

My mental state throughout my school years was a little turbulent, to say the least. I suffered dreadful bullying at primary school, and this continued in secondary school until I punched my main tormentor in the face just as the school principal was coming around the corner. (I largely got away with it, because frankly he had it coming.) Although the instances of outright bullying calmed down somewhat after this watershed moment, my social awkwardness and inability to understand the concept of being in any way fashionable — a trait I maintain to this day, though it matters a bit less now — meant that I was occasionally still the butt of jokes, even from people who were my friends most of the time. If the cool kids were around and there was the opportunity to make a joke at my expense, people normally took it, and this didn’t do much for my self-confidence.

I learned quite early on in my life that I was the sort of person who was prone to falling for people pretty quickly. My crippling self-doubt meant that I was ecstatic anyone would even give me the time of day, and even more so if said person was a girl. Having little to no understanding of relationships, though, I didn’t really know how to approach girls and try to take things anywhere beyond friendship; this was about the time Friends was airing on TV, so I found myself relating very much to David Schwimmer’s Ross character, and would watch the episode where he and Rachel got together over and over again while fantasising about one day being in that situation myself.

Anyway. The upshot of all this is that I found it difficult to express my feelings about people that I found myself liking. I was embarrassed if anyone found out who I “fancied”, and my friends would often take advantage of my squirming by hijacking the middle pages of my exercise books, scrawling my beloved’s name in huge letters and decorating the page overly flamboyantly. I’d protest, but secretly I actually quite appreciated the fact that they were acknowledging my feelings, and in their own strange, mocking way, I think they were trying to make me feel better, because it almost certainly became clear to them over time that regardless of my feelings towards any of these girls that I fell for during my time at school, I would never, ever do anything about it.

It’s not that I didn’t want to, though, and that’s where the new part of my diary came in. I would use the diary to express myself and try to figure out my feelings about the people that I liked. I’d even — and I realise that this is probably depicting me as a weird sort of creepy psycho — plan out how an “ideal” encounter with my beloved at the time would go. I’d script a conversation — like a play — as if everything was going exactly the way I would want it to, and on one memorable occasion I even drew diagrams of how I’d get my friends to occupy my beloved’s friends so I could get her by herself and talk to her alone. (I actually followed through on this on one occasion of uncharacteristic courage; it didn’t work, though I did get a hug and a “let’s be friends” out of it.)

None of the romances I dreamed of in my diary came to fruition — I had precisely two girlfriends in secondary school, one of whom I became involved with when I was actually trying to get it on with someone else, who cheated on me at the school prom (and is now, so far as I know, married to the dude she cheated on me with, so, err, good job, I guess?) and another with whom I got together during a recording of the BBC’s Songs of Praise at the local animal shelter, kissed precisely once, didn’t see for three days and then got dumped by proxy because she “wanted things to go back to the way they were before”. And, at times, this lack of “action” got to me a bit, particularly as I saw some of my friends getting started with what would turn out to be pretty long-term relationships. But the diary helped. In some ways, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t muster up the courage to go and talk to these people that I was attracted to, because my diary provided me with a means to express myself without having to put myself on the line, without risking humiliation, and without threatening my real-life friendship with the objects of my affections; my greatest fear was telling someone that I liked them, and them promptly never speaking to me ever again after that. In retrospect, this was a silly fear, but it was a big deal to teenage me.

I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I looked back over my diary and I suddenly felt ashamed of myself. It was a fantasy world, I knew; these conversations I’d script, these scenarios I’d describe, these fancies I’d indulge — none of them would ever be real, and that got to me. I also became absolutely terrified at the prospect of my diary ever being found by someone I really didn’t want to read it, so one day while I was alone in the house, I took one last look through that lovely leather-bound journal’s pages, stared at it for a few moments, then took it outside to the dustbin and buried it beneath a number of stinky, empty cans of cat food. I can only assume it ended up on a rubbish dump or landfill site somewhere, but occasionally I wondered if anyone would ever actually find it and read it — and what they would think of the clearly troubled mind that scrawled in its pages on an almost daily basis.

To my knowledge, though, no-one ever did read it. And for that I’m sort of grateful, because it would have been mortifying; but at the same time, I wonder if I might not have been able to make myself a little more understood if people had read it. And I guess that’s partly what this blog is about; it’s not quite the same as my diary and I’m certainly not going to start scripting fantasy conversations between me and people I fancy (largely because I’m married to the person that I love and thus have no need to), but it lets me get the weights off my mind at times, and, since it’s public — the journal left lying open on my desk, as it were — I hope it makes me at least a little more understood to others.

And if not, well, you can have a good old giggle at how messed up I am, huh. Either way, thanks for reading.

2048: You’re A Monster

0048_001As I’ve mentioned a couple of times recently, I’ve been reading the Monster Musume manga as well as keeping up with the anime adaptation, and I’ve been enjoying both a great deal.

While Monster Musume is, on the surface, a somewhat pervy ecchi harem series with all the requisite sexual tension plus copious boob and panty shots (albeit attached to non-human girls with “monstrous” features), at its heart beats a heart of gold and a number of positive messages: accepting people for who they are without judgement; not relying on first impressions to figure people out; standing up for what you believe in; and forgiving people when they make a mistake, particularly if they make it while they’re trying to learn something new.

I find the monster girl angle particularly interesting. As I noted when I first started checking out the anime, I’m unfamiliar with the monster girl trope in general, so it was somewhat jarring to see these obviously non-human girls initially; they’ve clearly all been designed with traditionally attractive anime/manga character visual tropes in mind, but in most cases there’s just enough of the monstrous to make you feel a little uncomfortable if you’re not already au fait with taking a walk on the wild side.

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In the case of Monster Musume, we have Miia’s extremely long snake tail, its companion clumsiness and her specifically snake-like characteristics such as her fangs and the fact she sheds her skin regularly; we have Papi’s bird legs and wings instead of arms attached to a distinctly young-looking body; we have the fact that Centorea’s arse is a horse (and her knockers are enormous); we have the fact that Suu is a slime girl who initially is completely unable to communicate through any means other than mimicking the things she has observed others doing; and, of course, we have Rachnea the spider-lady.

It’s interesting how the sequence in which these girls are introduced goes: although Miia is one of the more “monstrous” girls in a visual sense, in terms of character she’s probably the most “normal”, albeit rather more lovestruck than your average young woman. Papi is naive and innocent — considerably more stupid than her supposed actual age, with her intelligence and common sense more appropriate for her somewhat childlike appearance — and doesn’t quite fit in to “normal” society as a result, but is still reasonably recognisable as acting somewhat “human-like”. Centorea lives by some distinctly “fantasy world”-style values — all “honour” this, “my lord” that, plus her arse is a horse. Suu is in many ways the most “alien” of all the monster girls, at least in the early chapters; she has no idea that she regularly puts poor protagonist Kimihito at risk of drowning every time she embraced him a bit enthusiastically, and her initial inability to communicate puts her at a distinct disadvantage compared to the other girls (while also providing plenty of comic relief, as you might expect). Mero — who, so far, has been the least interesting, least developed character to me — presents an interesting take on attitudes to folklore by being obsessed with the tale of The Little Mermaid, but for its tragic angle rather than its romantic aspects.

In many way, though, Rachnera is one of the most interesting characters. In terms of visual design, being a spider woman, she’s the most obviously “non-human” of the lot; while Suu acts in an alien manner, she at least takes on humanoid form at the best of times. Rachnera, meanwhile, is quite literally an enormous spider with a woman’s upper half, and is consequently quite frightening to look at, particularly given how she’s introduced in some delightfully creepy scenes. Kimihito is true to his values, though, and doesn’t judge her by her appearance at all; when he first encounters her, he even appears largely dismissive of her monstrous nature and fetishises her spider legs, being a self-confessed “leg man”.

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Rachnera is one of the most grounded, honest characters in Monster Musume, as it happens. She arguably acts in the most “adult” manner of the whole lot — though this can be taken in several ways, since not only is she mature in her attitudes and responses to situations, she’s also very sexually aggressive. More importantly, though, she’s completely at ease with herself, accepting both her monstrous nature (and all the difficulties that can sometimes cause) and her sexually adventurous side, particularly her predilection for bondage play, which a number of different cast members end up on the receiving end of with varying degrees of willingness.

To me, Rachnera was the most initially jarring monster girl to make an appearance — largely because I still haaaaate real spiders — but from what I’ve seen of her so far, she’s also one of the most likeable. She’s not necessarily the one I find the most attractive (I think that dubious honour goes to Miia) but, well, she does have a fine pair on her, and she’s an interesting character whom it would probably be fun — if, at times, unsettling — to hang out with.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and seeing how these characters develop. It’s easy to dismiss Monster Musume as cheap fanservice — as it is with many things that initially appear to be cheap fanservice — but as I’ve said, beneath the boobs and lamia panties (they’re stick-on!) and sexual assault by slime girls, it’s a delightful series with a wonderfully positive message.

I’m glad my friend Chris convinced me to check it out for myself, because without his wild enthusing about monster girls, I would have probably thought I’d be too squicked out by the girls’ more monstrous aspects to enjoy it. But, as it turns out, it’s not at all difficult to start accepting people just as people, regardless of what their extremities look like…

2047: Until Dawn, Some First Impressions

0047_001I grabbed a copy of new PS4 game Until Dawn today. I haven’t been following the development of this game at all, but what little I had heard of it sounded enormously intriguing, so I decided to give it a shot.

For those as yet unfamiliar, Until Dawn is an interactive movie-type game in the vein of David Cage’s works Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls in that it’s heavily story-based, extremely linear and the decisions you make throughout are extremely important to how the whole thing concludes. Like Cage’s work, too, there’s absolutely no guarantee that all the cast are going to make it to the end, either.

Unlike Cage’s work, however, which draw influences from noir and a few other sources, Until Dawn is very much designed in the mould of ’90s-era teen slasher horror films. This type of movie is something of a lost art these days, with modern horror films tending to adopt more of a “horrorporn” approach with lots of gore and sadism, whereas teen slasher films were often witty and incisive as much as they were scary and horrific. (This isn’t to say that modern horrorporn films don’t have anything to say, of course — quite the contrary — but teen slasher films were very much their own distinct subgenre.)

The game opens with a bunch of teenagers spending a winter retreat up at a cabin in the mountains. Before long, Bad Shit starts happening and two of the party are dead — though their bodies are never found by either the authorities or their friends. The story then jumps forward to a year later, where the same group are revisiting the cabin on the anniversary of the two girls’ disappearance, and it’s clear that something odd is going on — though the early hours of the game are somewhat slow-paced, with only a few cheesy jump scares to keep you on your toes.

One interesting aspect of Until Dawn is its structure. While largely chronological and episodic in nature — each episode even starts with a “Previously on Until Dawn” recap — the game is punctuated by some interesting fourth wall-breaking sections in which a psychoanalyst appears to be speaking directly to the player. Whether or not this is actually the case remains to be seen, but in the same way that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories made use of the psychoanalysis session as a narrative framing device, so too does Until Dawn use your answers to the frankly rather creepy shrink’s questions to subtly tweak and tailor the experience. Often, these changes aren’t even commented on, leaving you in the distinctly uneasy position of wondering if you were imagining how you thought you remembered things from before, or if the game is just messing with you.

To say too much more would be to spoil it — and anyway, I’m only up to the third chapter so far — but I’m very, very impressed so far. It’s by far the most “next-gen” game I’ve seen so far with regard to graphical fidelity and particularly facial animation. It’s also nice to see other developers experimenting with the interactive movie format as David Cage has done in the past; Cage’s work often draws heavy criticism (though I’m very fond of both Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls) but the underlying principles of making meaningful narrative choices and interacting with the on-screen action are sound. I’m very intrigued to see where it all goes, and can confidently already recommend the game to anyone out there with a PS4 who enjoys a strongly narrative-driven experience.