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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Republique.

Transcript Edit

It seems that episodic games are just something we're gonna have to learn to live with now, like climate change and the unskippable advert odds are good you had to endure. I've resolved to try and stop reviewing new ones based on their first episode just 'cause I'm unwilling to wait for months on end before belittling them. I mean, who knows where King's Quest is at this point? Maybe it's moved on to ripping off all kinds of new films other than The Princess Bride.

And much as I'd like to discuss the first episode of Hitman and the fun to be had trying to furtively drag a naked pool-boy into the toilet stall before a guard can show up and completely spoil the romance, I'm the kind of guy who likes to immerse myself in a game for 20 hours until either it breaks or my catheter does. So giving my impressions at this stage would be like filling out my massage therapist's customer satisfaction survey before I've even had my happy ending.

So let's belittle an episodic game that actually finished recently: Republique. And having gone through the whole saga that took months if not years of build-up to reach a conclusion, I can authoritatively declare it a resounding "Eeeehhhhhhhhhhhh." But then what can one expect of a game that can't even spell "republic" properly?

In Republeurgh, we play as ourselves, using our aging gaming computers to hack into the network of a sinister facility which view exclusively through closed circuit surveillance and phone cameras; an immersive and innovative narrative device that brings back happy memories of Night Trap on the Sega CD. And just to continue the comparison, your job is to spy on girls to make sure they don't get grabbed by creepy dudes in black. Well, a girl named Hope, as in "I Hope I don't get molested by creepy dudes in black today."

Hope contacts us with her face a little unsettlingly-close to the phone camera so that we get a really close look at how many corners were cut in the Eyelid Animation Department, and begs us to help her escape from an oppressive regime where she is due to be mindwiped for reading some state-censored dirty books or something. As we guide Hope through what everyone keeps referring to as a totalitarian nation but which looks to me more like a single facility with about thirty rooms, we piece together the full story of the place, the individuals involved, and their sinister plan to imprison teenage girls and spy on them reading dirty books, which is not as self-explanatory as it sounds.

It's an all-star voice cast; David Hayter, Jennifer Hale, Dwight Schultz plays the villain, there's no one quite like Dwight Schultz for playing characters who seem like they could sorely use a good hard cock up their arse. Characterization's really rather strong; even the monsters have a touch of humanity about them. In many ways, the most human are the most monstrous of them all. There was a point in Re-Pie-Blunk when I realized I was into it, and that was the ending of the third episode. Hope realizes she unknowingly betrayed her friend as she receives her first glimpse of the outside world and there's a powerful mix of emotions that overwhelms her, and that got me. I was in then. Sadly I was out again by the time I got to the very end. Out then in then out and nary a chance to shake it all about.

See, before the third episode, the gameplay had been getting tiresome. The "stealth action" part of the promised "stealth action adventure" involves clicking on a bit of wall to make Hope go to it then clicking it a few more times 'til she realizes she's supposed to use it for cover, the silly moo. Then you use the cameras to scout ahead and make sure her path is clear of guard patrols.

I've spoken to people who said they don't like stealth gameplay because it's boring. It's sitting in a hole with a thumb up your butt waiting for a guard to turn around, where's the big cock action to distract me from contemplating my empty existence? Obviously I burn them to death, but dash it if Re-Pube-Like didn't remind me of that argument, 'cause the guards amble along their predictable patrols like a slug trying to decide what videos to rent out (dated simile). Then you can buy some special powers to make their routes even more predictable and the slugging even more sluggish. There are tazers and pepper sprays lying around everywhere on the off-chance they spot you, and even if they run out, they just take you to a cell in the next room and leave the door unlocked. Bending over backwards to not leave the crap-outs behind is like a wrestler having to pretend to lose to a cancer kid for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

But then Episode 3 had that ending and a puzzle involving gathering dirt on guards to get them away from a door that I thought was kind of neat, even if the same result could have been gotten by just pulling a fire alarm but that's adventure games for ya. Alright, color me intrigued, Re-Pob-Lark, what's next? "I'm glad you asked, here's a fourth episode where... basically nothing happens and a final one in which about nineteen different things get tied up in a very small space." Oh dear, color me out-trigued again, and then color yourself with a puke-green tint of failure!

Honestly I didn't get what was going on by the end and it seemed like events were coming out of nowhere. That's probably because a full understanding of the plot hinges on patiently listening to the approximately nine hundred billion hours of audio logs, a lot of which can be missed. One particular set of audio logs is on cassette tapes that you can't listen to unless you find a stereo. It's like your dad making you find a stick he's gonna beat you with. I'm not gonna stop playing for half an hour to awkwardly stand behind the stereo like a giraffe on an ice rink feeding it tape after tape! I've got a lot of small walls I need to crouch behind. Call me an overstimulated millennial, but I prefer an audio log that you can have running over gameplay. If we're sitting waiting for patrols with thumb up butt, it gives us something to listen to. There is a possibility that they'll get drowned out when something interesting happens, with any luck.

One rather mystifying collectable side-quest involved collecting floppy disks bearing the logos of popular indie darlings like Shovel Knight and Gunpoint, and the inevitable attached audio logs consisted of a character gushing about them. Seems a bit counter-productive to pause your game to tell the audience all about another game they could probably be having a better time with right now, but perhaps there's more behind this. Gaze at the Steam store page for Re-Pong-Clonk and you'll find it makes a special point of mentioning that it was made by industry veterans who worked on AAA titles, like Metal Gear Solid and Halo.

Now if you decided, as a sensible person would, that the AAA industry is about due to suffocate on its own farts and that it was time to flee a sinking ship/farting bottom and seek refuge in the more rewarding sphere of core indie games, perhaps you'd see the value in trying to ingratiate yourselves with your new chosen clique. In practice however, it invokes the one desperate dweeb at high school that hangs around the cool kids. "Hey, kid, jerk us all off." "Can do! Does this mean we're friends?" "Not until you eat this ladybug!"

So I guess my advice is play as far as the third episode and then lower your expectations into a shallow grave in the woods.

Addenda Edit

  • Loves the smell of pepper spray in the morning: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Maybe I'm just jealous 'cos there wasn't a collectible floppy disk of any of MY games
  • This is what happens when your security guards unionize

Screenshots Edit

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
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
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
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
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
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
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

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