Review by Old Rooster
Developer: Phantomery Studios
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Released: September, 2008
Available for Windows (System Specifications Below)
“With intriguing visuals and lovely musical score, Outcry will involve you in its mysterious and, ultimately, psychological storyline. Unfortunately, excessive verbiage as well as the insertion of odd and often difficult puzzles for their own sake brings the final score of this short game down to a 60% range.”
“I Hope You Don’t Forget About My Existence” - Brother’s Letter
You’re a middle-age writer who receives a strange invitation from a brother he hasn’t seen for years. Arriving at his residence, you are confronted not only by his sudden disappearance but also by a mysterious machine which has been his sole pre-occupation for years. According to his journal and notes it can separate one’s consciousness from one’s body.
Using a first-person POV, Outcry introduces you to a very different setting and perspective. Initially, many will wish to use available adjustments to “disable camera swinging,” as well as using “simple effects” for older graphic cards. The game runs without a CD in the hard drive, using standard point-and-click mouse controls familiar to most adventure game players. Movement is a full 360 degrees, with scenes changing in dramatic fashion. You are “taken” to your chosen new area through a sequence of three close-ups which are clear in the center, fuzzy around the edges. The reason for this becomes evident after you finish the game.
Right click brings up your “Library,” with drawings, texts and schemes, as well as “Inventory,” with unused items. The cursor reveals hot spots for item collection and other actions. There are no characters with whom you can interact and therefore no conversations. You do read notes and journal entries to yourself as well as engage in occasional self-reflection. This helps break up the sometimes oppressive lonliness of the game.
Explore The Boundaries Between Dreams And Reality
The initial setting suggests early to mid-twentieth century, particularly in terms of scientific equipment built by your brother. Indeed, much of the game has an H.G. Wellsian or Steampunk look. The graphics, as well, although detailed, are grainy, like an old film.
Musical score is entrancing, setting the tone for what is ultimately a rather depressing story. The note reading narration is very well done. Ambient sounds are minimal, but effective – a ticking grandfather clock that gets louder as you approach it, the wind outside a window.
Puzzles range from medium to very hard. They often involve running about the house to see if a switch has been thrown as a result of your actions – quite annoying. For clues, you need to read carefully the voluminous notes and other documents you’ll find written by your brother. You’ll collect and combine, sometimes with frustrating uncertainty as to whether you’ve done it correctly or not. You’ll deal with sound combinations, mechanical flowers and other Rhem-like challenges. I did find what appeared to be a dead end, having to import a later save game from a friend. Early in the game I found an item, placed it in Inventory and, while later exploring , found a “home” for that item, inserting it where it apparently belonged. Much later in the game, the need for that item to be in place became evident. I’d already put it there, so I should be fine and ready to go. Right? No; apparently the game wanted that item placed only in that scene or section, not earlier as I had done. I couldn’t move on. The item wouldn’t come out so I could replace it, and I would have had to go back a couple of hours to an earlier save, leaving the item in Inventory until that later point. If not for a save from a friend, the game would have ended for me right there.
“Time – The Devourer Of All Things” – Plaque on Wall
Outcry won a couple of game awards in Russia earlier this year – for overall Adventure game and sound design. The European title is Sublustrum, which can loosely be translated as “faintly lit.” For many, unfortunately, the game itself, once completed, will leave an impression of “faintly lit.”
The essential story is not happy or uplifting. But, it does present a journey, albiet less than eight hours, you’ll want to think about afterwards. I’d even suggest going back and replaying the opening scenes and exploration of the house. You may well find yourself saying, as I often did: “Why, of course, that’s why that (object, note, etc.) was there!”
Having said that, I so wished to rate this game higher. But the “boiler plate” in the form of too much peculiar writing to wade through as well strange and over-challenging puzzles leading to possible dead ends, causes me to take it down a couple of notches. Still, it’s only a $20 game, and those who enjoy this kind of puzzling and heavy reading may well be willing to sort through all the obscurity to get to the interesting central story.
Minimum Specifications for Outcry: XP/Vista; 1.5 P.4; 256MB RAM; 1.5 GB HD space; 3D Video Card with 128MB RAM, compatible with 2.0 Shader.