Penumbra: Overture - Episode One (2007)

Video Game   |  Horror


Penumbra: Overture - Episode One (2007) Poster

Like all good nightmares, Philip's begins with something all too real - his mother's death. The days following the funeral are characterized by an incessant feeling of abandonment, until he receives a letter from a dead man.


8.2/10
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29 March 2011 | TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews
8
| Terrifying
When Philip receives a letter from his father(after his mother's funeral), a man long since dead, it leads him to a lock-box of odd scribblings and maps that lead him to a remote part of Northern Greenland. He soon finds himself trapped underground in an abandoned mine, with only one way to go... further down. You find text excerpts that tell you some of what went on, but ultimately this does provide more questions than answers(and do note it's only the first chapter, with a second one and an expansion pack following this up... and I haven't tried them yet, so I can't say yet if they do explain the mystery or not; I'll try to address that in the reviews of them). It keeps itself vague, meaning that players may come up with different conclusions as to what is behind it all. This builds and continuously maintains atmosphere rather well, with a great sound-side and lighting. You have to make sure you can see(there are well-drawn shadows all over, hence the first word of the pretentious title... you hold the following in the left hand, and can hold a mêlée weapon in the right simultaneously... there are no guns in this), and you can use a flashlight(with only so much battery... you can pick up extra ones as you go along), a glow-stick(that doesn't illuminate that big of an area) and flares(finite in amount). And there are beings in your surroundings who are attracted to anything that breaks the darkness like moth to a flame. While you can kill some of them, it's not easy as you aren't a fighter. Also, once you start doing that, you may be committed to finishing the job... wound a feral dog(they sort of stalk you, they don't "spawn", you're on their turf and they try to find you, with pretty good AI) and it will howl, drawing others of its kind near! It's sometimes smarter to hide from(and when you crouch, you get a blue tint to your vision(emulating "feeling your way" and using intuition when going blindly around somewhere mildly familiar), and distract them. Whether you do that, engage in combat with them or are forced to flee(blocking doors, causing cave-ins and the like!), it's intense and horrifying. The designs, variety and quantity of the foes are lesser than other survival horror, and it's because of the different approach. This isn't trying to beat Silent Hill at its own game(pun intended), it opts for doing some things that series doesn't(if they are both psychological and disturbing). The isolated and life-threatening location, the enemies appealing to instinctive, primal fears(in general, this goes for those... claustrophobia, being eaten, being buried alive(you'll quiver when you hear a quake, afraid that the whole thing might collapse around you) freezing, heights, etc.), and the first person perspective are quite effective. Our lead comments little on things, and you can look long and hard down here for friendly NPCs. Voice acting is excellent. Writing ranges a tad, if it's usually great. Storytelling is done by narration over panning across stills and reading material. The graphics are of a high quality. There are short portions of this that are very tough(usually you resurrect at the very start of those, so you don't have to trudge through menial stuff to get back to your next attempt). The length of this is a tad brief, if the three difficulties and a few other settings that alter how challenging it is aid in replayability... one can argue that it could do better, with no unlockables or randomization. It is entirely linear, if you usually don't realize it as it's frankly that gripping. This uses checkpoint and auto-saving, so you seldom have to redo much when you perish(note that it can literally happen in a second if you aren't careful). There is no pausing, other than clicking Esc, where you'll be subjected to a merciless and unforgettable howling wind. Want to look at the items in your inventory, or go back over some text you found along the way(all of those are stored automatically)? Well, make sure you're safe where you're standing. There is no HUD, and this is otherwise minimalist. The controls are easy to remember and smooth, Assassin's Creed style(that was one thing that did exactly right, where the streamlining was clever), one key per overall activity. You have to memorize the few maps you discover(and where certain things are), they tell you where you are when you find them and they remain there. Taking notes outside of the VG is vital. This is all about puzzles(there are a ton of them, and they tend to be well-done), and the majority of them are based around the realistic physics that help make this stand out. You can interact with much of your environment, and you move the mouse to do so, not merely click. Pull out drawers, literally swing your weapons from one side of the screen to the other, pick something up and throw it(if it's old and warn, it may break when it lands, if you do so!), you get the idea. This is extremely immersive, you really feel like you're there, like you're making an impact, like you're moving these things. The point-and-click-adventure had practically died out, and this is the sort of thing that can reinvigorate it. And yes, you do have startlingly long arms. You feel the weight to what you grab, and the law of gravity(if you begin to pull the door of a closet that's lying down open and let go, it will close again as it falls). This came with no manual for me, and I still didn't have trouble as it swiftly introduces you to the interface. There is a lot of creepiness, nightmare fodder in the way of brutal and detailed descriptions and a little bloody violence and swearing in this. I recommend this to any fan of the genres, of Stephen King and his ilk, and of supernatural scares. 8/10


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Did You Know?

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Horror

Details

Release Date:

7 May 2007

Language

English


Country of Origin

Sweden

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