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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs.

TranscriptEdit

If you're gonna call a horror adventure game "Amnesia", you might as well call a first-person shooter "Bullets". It'd be quicker to list horror adventure games that don't involve amnesia in some way; it's the reliable old menopausal carthorse of videogame narrative, but especially adventure games: you wake up in a room with no memory of why you're there or who you are and can only find solace in your predicament by stealing everything that isn't nailed down.

Fortunately, lest one get confused, the Amnesia series is the master of the clarifying subtitle; firstly The Dark Descent because it's chiefly about descending into a place that's very dark, and now A Machine for Pigs, which is about a big machine with a lotta pigs involved. As subtitles go, it's certinaly informative, if a little offputting, but that's kind of why I like it. 'Cause I can picture an average big-name publisher looking it over, lips moving and brows hanging low over his beady little eyes, before looking up and saying "Couldn't we just call it Amnesia: Revelations or something?"

The Dark Descent was a miserable, horrifying experience that really cheered me up, it being the only horror game in years to understand subtlety and atmosphere and how little they are improved by micropayments. And right from the title screen of M for P, I knew I was in for a good time when a large stringed instrument started threatening to eat me. If you need some kind of primer on the first Amnesia game, put on a blindfold and shit yourself, that'll about bring you up to speed!

Don't worry too much about the plot, 'cause the new game is largely unconnected, besides from the fact that it's basically the same plot: you are a very British man who wakes up alone in a spooky mansion with the eponymous headfart, and must make his way down through an increasingly scary environment, gradually piecing together why it's gone all scary and how involved you were in the process, and I'll put down a spoiler warning here in case you work at the paint-tasting factory, but the answer is a lot.

More specifically, you are looking for your missing children, which a mysterious and very trustworthy-sounding voice from a telephone says can be found if you descend through a giant, broken-down machine, and actually, while you're there, if you wouldn't mind reactivating it, that'd be grand. And I'm sure this'll all work out entirely for the best; what do you call this one, duck egg blue? Yum, tastes like dying braincells!

The ancient castle and dungeons of Amnesia: The Double-D have been replaced in Amnesia: A Sausage for Breakfast with a Victorian industrial theme, with all the delightful things that come with it: copper pipes and steam , child slave workers getting their little heads caught between gears until they pop like fragile china teapots full of beef casserole. The game does a good job of making the titular machine feel like a groaning, inescapable monster given a hideous, lurching life by whirring engines and boiling steam, with you an insignificant speck lost uncomprehending in its workings, like a terrier in a sex orgy.

Dehumanisation is a central theme, and the whole pig motif gets worked to death like the liver of someone playing a drinking game where you take a shot every time pigs are mentioned. "Hey, the pigs are an analogy for human beings in the eyes of an uncaring industrialized society! Did that come across?" Yes, thank you, Amnesia, you're very clever. It is all rather effective, and, like the previous Amnesia, if you don't find all the text documents and shit, you might feel a bit in-the-dark about what the fuck's going on (as well as in-the-dark generally). But you might as well look for all the documents 'cause there's not really much else to do.

Quite a few gameplay features have been stripped out, starting with the sanity metre, which was probably smart; I don't like it when a game tells you how you feel ("YOU ARE SCARED. THIS NUMBER SAYS YOU ARE SCARED. PULL A SCARED FACE.") when it could just be, you know, scaring me, without trying to keep score. It's like when a game introduces a lone female character who you talk to for five minutes and then it says "YOU LOVE THIS PERSON, GO RESCUE HER." But on the other hand, the sanity mechanic in the first game afforded mystique to the monsters by discouraging you from looking at them, and now you can just ogle them to your heart's content, you freak.

Also, your character is apparently wearing some kind of one-piece leotard with no pockets, 'cause there's no inventory and carrying a physics object from one room to the next is about as complicated as puzzles get. Having to back-and-forth between several rooms trying to solve inventory puzzles while a monster is sniffing about with eyes on the prize of your thighs is a thing of the past, and your path through the machine is mainly a linear sightseeing tour occasionally spawning monsters to chase you to the next part when it feels like you're not taking things seriously enough.

A significant portion of the way through the game, I ran into a pig-man ("See, the pig-men represent–" Yes, very subtle, Amnesia, well done.) in their little network of passages, trotting along a fixed path then turning around and trotting back, requiring me to pick the right moment to stealth past. "Blimey!", I thought, "I think I just found the first bit of fucking gameplay in this game!" But even when I did get trapped and trotted to death, I just woke up in an unlocked cage elsewhere on the map. And while being chased through a darkened factory by a pig-man squealing like his pork scratchings got caught in a door hinge is not something I would enter into without first making room in the household budget for reupholstering the computer chair, not being killed takes the edge off a bit.

And for all that dingy tunnels and noisy plumbing can do to build the atmosphere, I went away with a distinct awareness of how infrequently I was ever in actual danger, not that you know that. In the first playthrough, at least, you're about ready to squirt piss out of every single orifice at the merest whiff of bacon, but, looking back, I almost feel cheated, like the maintenance man showed up three hours late and just stood outside my window making ominous noises with his lips.

If you're after horror, then Amnesia: A Question of Sport is still several thousand times more worth-your-time than, for example, Actually-Surprisingly-Lively Space 3. The atmosphere and writing are rock-solid, but with the simplified gameplay it's a bit too linear and over too quickly. And even the story was losing me towards the end; there's a bit where some big atrocity is supposed to be taking place in a city, and you're running through the streets as it's happening, but the Amnesia engine is suited mainly for exploring narrow hallways, obsessively checking desk drawers, and seems unwilling to let you interact with any character that doesn't have its jawbone stapled to its kneecaps, so the atrocities are all going on off-camera.

I know that the guiding principle is that what you can't see is scarier, but if violence against an innocent is supposed to horrify me, it would help if I had in some way seen or heard from them before they got liquidized. Being hunted through a tunnel by something that's gonna pull my twat out through my nose if it finds me, now that is horror I can get a sense of! The sense is smell, and the smell is piss!

AddendaEdit

  • A tureen for figs: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Also don't make beef casserole in teapots because I have found that nothing ruins an evening faster than a misbehaving spout
  • It's also better than Actually-Surprisingly-Lively Island

Extra: Escapist Expo 2013Edit

Hey, it's Escapist Expo time again soon! October 4-6 in Durham, North Carolina, just like last time. You'd almost think it's a regular thing now! Just lettin' ya know I'm gonna be there again, 'cause it was a lotta fun last time, and I'm looking forward to seeing open-quotes all of open-quotes you open-quotes again.

ScreenshotsEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
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2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
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Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
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Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time

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