It will take you 3 minutes to read this review.
A haunted hotel? A creepy mission to fight a sinister evil force? The first chapter in a much longer story? No, no . . . I’m not reviewing Activision’s Inherent Evil again. This is a new game called The Forgotten: It Begins from Ransom Studios and DreamCatcher Interactive.
It’s a shame, actually, that these two games came out so close to each other. Not because I’m tired of the subject matter, believe me. No no, you can thrust me into as many macabre, blood-soaked, specter-infested horror hotels you want to. I love this sort of thing!
The problem is The Forgotten seems to be attempting many of the same things that Inherent Evil is attempting; it just doesn’t succeed nearly as well.
Let’s first start off with the premise. It’s terrific. Your character, in time-honored adventure game tradition, is off to find a hero who has mysteriously disappeared. Your friend, Richard Halliburton, has been exploring a worldwide cabal of practitioners of the black arts called Collectors. This involves the use of various magic cards that hold tremendous power.
One of the fun things about the story is that it uses real historical figures. In addition to Halliburton, the story also involved Amelia Earhart, Tsar Nicholas II and his daughter Anastasia. I love this sort of thing, too.
And the story is set in New Orleans! Perfect. Easily the most macabre city in the country. A city that always makes me feel anything can happen there.
The story starts off in your study, with a few bits of information and helpful objects from your friend Richard. He gives you a little bit of instruction, and you’re off and running. The graphics in this game are nice, if not exceptional. An admirable feature to the game is that much of the study, and the environments that follow, are very fully explorable, with or without hotspots. This increases the feeling of reality while moving through the story.
Unfortunately, the game isn’t really up to date technically. It uses a very strange technique for navigation. When you move toward something, instead of smooth full animated movement, or even a crisp slide show, the camera does this odd zooming pan into the existing picture. Then after an awkward moment, you’re clicked to the next screen. In other words, it’s slideshow attempting to pass itself off as full animated movement. All it does, though, is slow down navigation and force your nose right up to the pictures to that you get to see each background in pixilated form. What’s the point of this? I found it irritating, and luckily the game preferences allowed me to turn this feature off. I don’t mind a well-working slideshow game, and if you’re not going to spend the dough for full animated movement, don’t pretend you have, please. Also, I noticed frequent inconsistencies between medium shots and closeups of the same objects: colors and textures were so different, I wondered if I was looking at the same things or if I’d accidentally turned another direction.
On the other hand, there are a few beautiful moments. My favorite is right outside the door of an abandoned apothecary shop. The wind is blowing the shop’s sign as well as a beautifully rendered and animated leaf-laden branch. There’s also a wonderfully creepy skeleton dance a bit later.
The Forgotten if the first chapter in a proposed series of games that are one big story. Yes, sort of like Inherent Evil. It’s planned to be in seven chapters. The problem is that, unlike Inherent Evil, The Forgotten is not satisfying in an of itself. When it’s over, you’re sitting there ready to go to the next chapter . . . and there’s no next chapter to go to. Your inventory is full of important-looking items that you haven’t used. Few, if any, questions have been answered.
Okay, okay, I get it. This is just a prologue. But will games be satisfied with this answer? Will gamers want to have to buy each new chapter separately? Will we even remember the important elements to the story before the next game comes out? How long will the wait be between each chapters?
The Forgotten is literally the shortest game I’ve ever played. It’s about three hours long, tops. Yes, it does cast a creepy mood, but I never felt my character was in any danger. There’s never a direct threat, or a deadly puzzle that must be solved or ELSE. It really feels like I’m just along for the ride.
After playing games with epic length like Black Dahlia, Riven, Obsidian, and The Feeble Files, the brevity of The Forgotten just feels plain cheesy. I think the creators should have waited until they had an entire story, and then released a longer game.
I think players who like this sort of horror-themed game will have a pleasant time playing this game, but I worry that, by the time Chapter Two: The Collection is released, that many players will have already forgotten The Forgotten.