I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Posts Tagged ‘video games

Obscure, indeed.

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So, a while ago, when at GameSpot looking for some new games for the Wii, in among the cartoony Marios and rampaging rabbits and sports games, I spotted one that looked like it might appeal to the part of me that was amused for a little while by Silent Hill a few years ago. It had the dark creepy cover and the description of a mystery that sort of needed to be solved and as a bonus, could be played as a two player game, so my husband could get in on the action.

And so it was that last night we decided to check out Obscure: The Aftermath. The best thing I can say about this game is that I am sure we can trade it in at our local GameStop for some credit toward MarioCart or something for the kid’s upcoming birthday. That or it might net something good on Swaptree

Now, I’m usually more of a non-violent adventure gamer – I love the creepy, like The Lost Crown, and absolutely adore The Longest Journey, but I have no problem with video game violence, so long as it makes sense. There is no way in which this applies to Obscure. The interface is awkward, the gameplay is so dark that it was difficult to see details even in a dark room on a large projection screen and the characters are completely unlikable and are the type of people I tried hard to avoid in college the first time around. The first “challenge” is to make your way through a long bloody hallway and then fight some beasts, after which the male character wakes up in a bathroom stall vomiting. Sexy. The second challenge involves a different couple trying to sneak into a frat party. I have no idea what happens after that, because we couldn’t take it any more.

Because, here’s the biggest issue I take with the game – I’m perfectly happy to wile away a few hours playing something vapid, just as I occasionally enjoy some truly horrible movies or train wrecks of television programs – but I quickly tire of being asked to be an active participant in “entertainment” that regularly actively insults me. It is hardly news that the video game industry is not exactly female friendly, and the fact that the female “characters” were large breasted, scantily clad and largely accessories was not entirely unexpected, but as gameplay went on, it became increasingly clear that the makers of this game have apparently given no consideration to the fact that non-male individuals might ever consider playing this game.

We hadn’t even started gameplay when I turned to my husband and noted, “Evidently women aren’t supposed to play this game,” pointing to the onscreen instructions advising that if the second player wanted to leave or join the game “he” needed to press 2 on “his” remote. Non gender neutral language FTW. As the game starts, we look around the male protagonist’s (player 1) dorm room and learn that he has lots of sex with lots of different women in his bed – one of his favorite places. His girlfriend (player 2) teases him about it, but sounds bitter at his conquests and he makes her feel better by saying she’s “the only one who stuck around”. Well, that’s flattering. It is quickly obvious that the second player is almost entirely superfluous. She – and the parts we played were always heterosexual couples with the male as the leader – follows her boyfriend around. And that’s about it. Player 2 cannot do anything without being right next to player1 and gets dragged from frame to frame at player 1’s whim. (This is a design issue – lots of “two player” games don’t have much for the second player to do, but it’s particularly salient here.)

The men’s dorm is filled with notes referencing the sexual prowess of its residents. J kept noting “It’s persistent” every time the game would reinforce it’s message that manliness is next to fucking anything that comes within a few hundred feet. The notes were even worse in the women’s dorm, which the protagonist boyfriend enters through an open window later in the game – one recounts male-on-male sexual assault as part of an apology to the perpetrator’s girlfriend. Another is a notice that reads like a flier about a lost puppy, except that the creature that was “lost” is the note writer’s girlfriend, who’s name he does not know. Charming.

The second couple we meet is a beefy athletic dude and his buxum blonde girlfriend. They want to go to a frat party. Wheee! So they try to sneak in. So they wander around until they find a big box to climb on. At which point, the girlfriend declares “You move this. You’re big and strong and I’m just a weak girl.” Slightly paraphrased, but you get the idea. That, my friends, was when I was done and we switched to Lego Batman.

I can put up with a lot in the name of entertainment. But fail to be entertaining, while being actively, seemingly intentionally offensive? Well, the name of this blog has rarely been so appropriate.

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Written by emandink

June 20, 2009 at 11:37 am