- February 27th, 2012
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YOU MUST BE AT LEAST THIS PRETENTIOUS TO RIDE THIS RIDE
That was a fuckin’ terrible joke, Bill. How insensitive of you. AND WITH ALL THESE FEELINGS LAYING AROUND THE PLACE, I MEAN LOOK AT THEM.
HEY LOOK THEY MADE A SEQUEL TO THE PATH. SWEET. You think I’m joking. You think I’m joking.
Where was I? Oh yeah, HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. That’s literally every one of my Steam friends mocking me for paying $10 for the full release version of this HL2 mod gone rogue. How could you Beel? I thought you were cool. I suffer for my art, what can I say.
Naturally, the first thing I did when the game loaded was try to drown myself. Curses, foiled agayn! I got the familiar “Go baaack” refrain present in the original version and then spawned at the starting point.
MAN DEAR ESTHER SURE IS A BEAUTIFUL FUCKING GAME. I’ll be fair, though. The graphical oversmurf The Chinese Room did on the ol’ dame is pretty impressive. They/he/she/it/Xenu didn’t stop there, though. Although the game world’s layout remains essentially the same on a macro scale as the original effort there are some notable changes to the experience, both good and bad.
THE GOOD: SPOOKY SOUNDS AND SHIT
The original DEAR ESTHER had a solid soundtrack. It was used sparingly and with good judgment. We all know if your music sucks in your art game you may as well scrap whatever flaccid idea you had and make a game about something completely ridiculous, such as what it would be like to be John the Baptist’s extremely bored ghost. HA HA, NEVER MIND, TALE OF TALES ALREADY MADE THAT GAME. Anyway The Chizzle Rizzle drops phat beats or whatever (I suck at talking “street”) and throws in some mournful wailing and electric monkey gibbering that falls well on this side of not-laughably-silly.
THE BAD: BEHOLD MY ART CORRIDOR
The first incarnation of DEAR ESTHER was hardly a maze of twisty passages, all alike but at least you could, you know, wander down that one valley or up into that grotto or hit one of the beaches or gambol along the cliffside in no particular order. You could even bust a move up behind the lighthouse you start the game staring at. It’s exactly as exciting as it sounds, yes, but you could do it! It gave the game a sense of actual place, although it did admittedly amount to a fair bit of backtracking. But Hell, that’s what you do on a mysterious deserted island of lepers or whatever the fuck this place is (more on that later!). In the pay-per-view special, however, the developers realized going in that research has shown nearly half of all people visiting an art museum have been there for several days, they just can’t find an exit and keep confusing the Kandinsky for a floormap.
Soooo, instead of HILARIOUSLY DYING ON THAT ONE BEACH you just sort of have to go up a staircase hewn out of the hillside at one point. Then you are forced to head down the side valley, but only halfway, then back out again to Shipwreck Beach, then up into the grotto which now has a big ol’ hill, down the hill and finally into the caves and that sweet-ass hole you get to fall down, and so on to the end. It reminded me of a Disneyland ride, ambling along a slightly winding but in no way diverging path towards the end. The game only warns you to Go baaack if you do something completely idiotic, like run into the ocean or high dive off one of the few places where there’s no railing. There’s a second giant hole in the ground somewhere near the other giant hole in the ground, but this particular hole in the ground just barfs you back up outside its mouth like a dyspeptic Sarlacc monster.
There’s quite a lot you don’t get in the game despite the Source pedigree. The auto-flashlight only works half the time, less if you count the cave section. There is nothing to pick up or interact with, so the E key does nothing, not so much as even that forlorn little doot noise it makes when you press it and there’s nothing for it to interact with. Keep your hands inside the ride at all times, and so forth.
YOU CAN’T EVEN JUMP, SORE SUCK’S FAKE. Or crouch. Or run. I mean, really? Really? All these knee-high pathway railings and rocks and shit, it’s walls without walls, man. It’s like fucking mime class. Mime training wheels. Quasi-mime. I’ll stop now.
AIN’T NO SAVE GAMES, NEITHER. Being able to save anywhere? How un-arty. Sniff. Philistine. No, in DEAR ESTHER you can start at the beginning of each “chapter” but of course only after you have made it to that part of the game already. And now for a brief summary of each chapter:
CHAPTER 1: THE BORINGEST PART
The staggering dullness of the original is preserved quite well in the first leg of the updated version. You investigate an abandoned lighthouse and then amble along a pleasant little beach that unfortunately now does not kill you. So it’s actually even more boring than the original. That was hard to do, fellas. Hat’s off.
CHAPTER 2: DINGHYS ATE MY BABY
This part of the island features a large cove clogged with shipwrecks. The voiceovers that play in this section really begin to shape the story of what has happened/is happening on the island (more on that later!). Preserved from the original mod is One of the Only Interesting Things About the Game, the shadow of a human figure off in the distance that of course evaporates by the time you reach the place where you saw it farting about. It would have been mildly entertaining to have been able to jump aboard the abandoned wrecks on the shore but as I mentioned earlier you cannot jump and the ships are all hemmed in by boulders. However it was during this chapter that I noticed (by accident because I reloaded my game since I wanted to stop but could not save) some small random items strewn about the island change position, appear, or disappear.
CHAPTER 3: THE SECRET OF RAVE ISLAND
Cave paintings! Zany! But what do they mean! Probably fuck all! Why would I ever use any other punctuation mark besides an exclamation point! These are great!
This right here is the chemical formula for ethanol, or simple alcohol. You can see the -O-H alcohol group on the upper right. Hell, more than that, it’s the molecular formula replete with geometric bond orientations. The dashed lined bonds are pointing away from you and the thick triangular bonds are pointing towards you and oh God I am such a science nerd
WHAT SORCERY IS THIS? Now that’s a pretty fair sketch of a nerve cell. The thicker arm sticking out of the top is probably the axon where nerve conduction is sent away from the cell’s body whereas the lower projections are dendrites which receive nerve impulses from other nerve cells or sensory cells. That one is bipolar, whatever crazy motherfucker painted all these also took the time to include the other two types of neuron morphologies, unipolar and multipolar.
AW SHIT I KNOW A KIDNEY WHEN I SEE ONE. Yeah man you can see the indented pelvis in the center there and the lines flying out of it are supposed to be the ureter and renal artery and vein AND IS THIS GAME TROLLING ME WHAT THE HELL
Rounding out the crazy train are some diagrams that are pretty clearly schematics for electrical circuits and one that resembles a car’s check temperature warning light . There are more diagrams of more complex molecules but they are, as I noticed, all alcohols. HMMMMMMMMMM
CHAPTER 4: I THINK I PEED A LITTLE
Chapter 3 ends with a bit that comes out of nowhere that is totally new and I don’t mind saying, it’s pretty sweet: an underwater wacky dream/flashback sequence that Obviously Means SomethingTM. It serves as a compelling segue to Chapter 4, which is by far the most entertaining of the four parts.
Although, ironically, it affords the least freedom of movement and exploration. It’s pretty much a straight walk along a beach and then up the side of a small mountain to a radio tower. Absurdly, once you get near the radio tower, all control of your character is taken and you find yourself propelled up the tower and then the game ends in a curious, but not very mysterious, fashion.
Also, this creepy fucker is skulking around. But Beel, what does it all meeeean?
HERE I SIT, BROKEN HEARTED/PAID MY DIME AND ONLY FARTED
The original version of DEAR ESTHER was mostly about the limits of tedium an HL2 mod gussied up as an art game can provide while still remaining tolerable. The newer version is about much more than that, however. After giving it far more time that it deserves, I have finally figured out what DEAR ESTHER is all about. It’s pretty obvious really, and I am both saddened and surprised nobody has figured it out yet.
In DEAR ESTHER, you play a deranged gimp hobo serial killer. Now let me explain.
In DEAR ESTHER, you play a deranged gimp hobo serial killer. Now let me explain.
To fully understand this, you have to use your critical mind and ignore the congo line of red herrings set to waylay dimwits the game is lousy with, and get with the program. You wake up with no memories. You follow the same patterns along the island, nothing too risky, hoping to chance upon a new victim who has been shipwrecked on Shit Island with you. You kill people and read their diaries, then are tormented by passages from them repeating over and over at random in your demented mind. You can’t speak, you shuffle along on a presumably busted leg, unable to run or jump or crouch, the wound in your leg probably festering and gangrenous by now, yet somehow you still subsist.
In your warped mind you believe like so many hilariously insane serial killers that by consuming your victims you gain a part of their essence, their soul, their being. So you ate that one asshole’s head and now you think you’re an electrical engineer, and you dragged the barely-conscious body of that other twat so you could dine on his carcass proper and believe yourself a chemist thereafter. Ha ha, you think you can diagnose kidney X-rays from memory.
You painted every available flat surface, walls and tiny menhir stones and caves with diagrams and formulas and shit that you believed were spit out of your brain as proof you had become unto your victims, as they say. Nigga you just copied shit out of one of the dozen or so textbooks laying about the island. You aren’t fooling anyone. At first I thought there was some meaning when you wrote a bunch of alcohol molecules on the walls, but no. I think you just like writing the word HO because you think those are molecules of Whorium, what women are composed of (you sick fuck). I think one of those boats on the beach had a cargo box full of science texts. You lugged them all over the island and squirreled them away in your various hovels and you pore over them while screaming at a rock with a frowny face painted on it and crying or whatever it is you frank psychotics do when nobody is looking. You probably hurt your leg slipping on those rocks on the beach. Or when you almost drowned in the caves and had a fake flashback of when Esther died in that car crash. But the Lord watches over children, retards and nutbags like you and you somehow survived, more is the pity.
I mean why else does all this shit get moved around, disappear and reappear unless it’s you doing it and forgetting? Who would waste God knows how many hours and futile labor erecting a sad mini-Stonehenge that screams at you when you come near it, except you? The rocks scream at you. God you are a mess, no wonder your mother used to make fun of your penis when she caught you masturbating to pictures of dead dogs. Some of the kooky wails you hear are probably actually you gibbering like a primate. I bet you have Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease from eating raw brain tissue. If you cocked your head to the side half your own brain would probably leak out onto the sand.
I don’t think Esther even existed. I think you made her up or maybe that was your mom’s name. Creep.
You see shadows of people, which is probably the only way you see them. You don’t actually see anyone; maybe you don’t even realize you’re even killing people anymore. The poor sucker on the beach near the wrecks. The naked weirdo on the beach near where you folded all of those paper boats using pages from the textbooks after you’d read them. The dude hunched over a small fire near the radio tower. Oh, the radio tower.
The mere mention of it sends chills down your back, doesn’t it? The only real mystery is what’s in that tower, because you’re so crazy you can’t even get near it before an imaginary boogums freaks you out and you pretend you’re a seagull flying up the radio tower and then majestically over the island before waking up in a fugue state in one of four places and starting your warped excuse for an existence again. And again. And agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain. You can’t even kill yourself right.
The internet is full of friplicking douchewigglers who see all kinds of pathos and mythos and probably eros (the perverts) in DEAR ESTHER. I see a fair-to-middling art game that is, as usual, near flatlined on the game aspect. Because having choices and game play is disgustingly non-arty, or so I hear. As a psychotic flesh-hungry killer hobo sim, it’s not half-bad, though. Needs more victims, and not the I-paid-10-bucks-for-this-twaddle kind.