September 9, 2022
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we’ve been playing over the past few days. This time: morgues, graphic novels and a bit of editing.
If you feel like catching up on some older editions of What We’ve Been Playing, you’ll find our archive here.
The morgue assistant, PC
I recently had quite the creep-out playing The Mortuary Assistant. All my hair stood on end and I was sweating and my heart was pounding. And it wasn’t the middle of the night or anything — it was late afternoon and RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under blaring in the background — but it didn’t matter: I shuddered.
And okay, I’m an easy target, but there’s something about the way this game deals with fears that fascinates me. There’s no combat involved, you see, so you don’t have to defend yourself when something terrifying appears – you’re not under that kind of threat. Really, you’re just there to observe, and it’s a design decision that I cling to, like a life raft in those moments, trust me. And you might think that really limits what Mortuary Assistant can do, the stress it can cause you, but it doesn’t.
This game is a master at making almost imperceptible changes very quickly and then leaving them to you to discover them. Think of those scary pictures where you don’t see the face by the window until you look again: that’s right. And those pictures always scare me because I don’t see the thing the first time – it has something to do with the vulnerability of being in the presence of something, but not realizing it, I think, and it shakes me up. And I’ve lost count of the times Mortuary Assistant has pulled a similar trick.
But it doesn’t feel like a trick. Somehow it feels classy. For starters, there’s rarely a marching band involved – it’s not like getting a whack of orchestral sound to make you jump out of your seat. Suddenly there’s just something, and just as quickly it’s gone, sneaking away like a spider back into a hole. Actually, spiders are a very good reference, not because there are spiders in the game, but because of how they move, so fast and quiet, so graceful – one minute it’s gone. The morgue assistant is so often like this.
I realize this probably scared you off completely, but you should play it.
Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel, PSP
The PSP is perfectly placed to feel like the future and the past. It’s still a beautiful machine, with a bright screen and a real sense of luxury. But it’s also obviously old, even if you have a working battery and don’t, like me, need to keep it plugged in.
I got the old PSP this week because I was in the loft looking for something else – if anyone knows where is the yellow wheeled suitcase we bought a few years ago tell me – and I came across Metal Gear Acid and Metal Gear Solid vs. : Digital Graphic Novel. Acid is too good to run through while hanging out by an outlet, so I’m getting a new battery. But the novel? I forgot I had this.
It’s great: a digital version of Ashley Wood’s comic, which turns Yoji Shinkawa’s nervous designs into something that reminds me of late-period Sienkiewicz. The novel follows the plot of Metal Gear Solid in such a evocative style that as I watched it, I kind of flashed back to the first time I saw the game itself run, over twenty years ago in my college dorm.
The digital novel feels like the future and also the past. It’s a lavish bit of fan service that, I suspect, came out to bridge the gap between Acid and Portable Ops. It’s both a cash-in and something that comes from a place of true love, and it has a shaky item search minigame that makes it harder to describe properly.
Playing this on the PSP in 2022 makes me feel like one of those soldiers who spent years in the trenches, not knowing the war was over. But don’t get me wrong: it was brilliant.
If you’re familiar with Sam Barlow’s latest foray into the interactive movie space, you’ll know that the first rule of playing Immortality is don’t talk about playing Immortality. Ruining the really surprising twists and turns for any curious new player won’t ruin their experience, but keeping the layered secrets so they can discover everything on their own will certainly be the creepy, what-the-hell-about -ongoing-improving atmosphere of that first playthrough.
So, without talking too much about it, I can tell you that I half wish I could erase Immortality from my memory and play it all over again for the first time. You never know what you’ll get every time an image of a scene is clicked and it takes you to another random clip that contains that image. This is one of the few mechanics in the game that was added to help you discover what happened to the disappearing actress Marissa Marcel. Click on images, fast-forward, rewind and favorite key moments from each of her three unreleased films and you’ll soon be jumping down a twisty rabbit hole with as many messed up questions as confused answers.
I only half wish I could experience Immortality for the first time because right now – over a week after the credits roll – I’m still playing it. Still looking for answers, making new discoveries and reading the great thoughts and theories of other players about the game’s story and its multifaceted themes. While I wouldn’t say the plot and themes are unique, the way you discover them is.
I’ve never played anything like Immortality.