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Emily Enough: Imprisoned review

Emily Enough
Emily Enough

One of the appeals of games in general and adventures in particular is the opportunity to escape into the life of someone other than yourself. Within the Underground scene, such opportunities sometimes extend into areas that mainstream publishers might be inclined to shy away from. Such is the case with Logan Worsley’s Emily Enough: Imprisoned, where you get the opportunity to play a psychopathic little girl.

The eponymous Emily has murdered her family and servants because they didn’t buy her what she wanted for her birthday. Not unreasonably, the authorities decided this is antisocial behaviour and had her committed to a mental hospital. The game begins as she arrives at this institution with only a small suitcase (which then disappears) to her name. You’ll soon discover that the facility’s owner, Glaxochem, has fallen on hard times and that you’re now in their corporate headquarters cum product testing lab. As Emily, your task is simply to find a way to escape. Of course, this being an adventure game, that task is far from simple.

Graphically, the Glaxochem Center for Mental Wellness is a drab and depressing place. The colour palette used for the majority of the game is muted and dirty-looking, with even the characters’ skin tones presented in shades of grey. In fact, for much of the game, the only splash of colour is Emily herself, with bright orange hair and a pink dress. Despite this limited palette, the cartoonish graphics achieve a level of detail sufficient to produce recognisable expressions on the generally small faces. The expressiveness extends to idle animations too, such as the constantly jittery Lobotomised Lou. The visual detail also allows for the inclusion of some small items without making them only a couple of nondescript pixels. Close scrutiny should allow most players to spot needed items without resorting to painting the screen with the cursor. The only place the graphics really fall down is when trying to create a sense of perspective with long corridors. Whilst Emily properly shrinks in size as she walks away from the player, her movement speed is constant rather than proportionally being reduced, creating the effect of Emily accelerating faster the farther away she gets.

The dismal setting fits the game well, as this is undoubtedly a comedy of the blackest hue. Emily is clearly a psychopath indeed, and it is to the author’s credit that she is still an enjoyable role to play. If she behaved too acceptably, the illusion of controlling such a remarkable character would quickly have been broken. If, by contrast, she did insane things constantly, just because she could, she would be unplayable. Instead, Emily is presented as an intelligent and logical person that just happens to see maiming and killing as legitimate options in resolving problems. You couldn’t call her likeable but her straightforward approach engenders a sort of respect. Emily’s personality allows for much of the games humour, though there are plentiful digs at corporate ethics (or rather the lack thereof) as well. The other characters show a similar care in their characterisation, though they include personalities too pitiful or unlikeable to have succeeded in larger roles. Emily’s approach to these characters is a harsh superiority, an attitude that will often be a dark mirror of the player’s own.

The sound in the game is limited but used effectively. Mostly it consists of a handful of location-specific noises, such as a mobile phone ringing in the central room, and largely innocuous background music. These serve to set the scene without being overly intrusive. The real spectacle on the audio front is the opening title theme. This is a stunning dramatic guitar piece beautifully timed to crescendo at the appropriate moment of the introductory cutscene (if you don’t skip through the dialogue). Some might consider this alone worth the download time.

The standard AGS four-cursor, point-and-click interface is used here, and there is plenty in the game to click on. Whilst only a few objects are genuinely interactive, each of the handful of areas is littered with hotspots. Many of these, such as the “Distasteful Rug” and “Puke Coloured Wall” serve to maintain the tone set by the colour scheme. Others poke fun at the genre, with the bookshelves mostly being stacked with “Random Useless Books” with just an occasional named title. In almost all cases, Emily is ready with an acerbic or just plain disturbing comment on anything you look at or touch. This makes for a welcome change from the inventory item-only environments some games present.

Of course, the real test of an adventure game is the puzzles and Emily Enough

offers some quite reasonable ones. To accomplish your ultimate goal you’ll end up performing various tasks for the loonies dotted around the building (including serial killer Peter Orfly and the unscrupulous head of the institute, Coopernickel) and will have to apply your lateral thinking skills to complete them. The main task of getting your release papers signed involves satisfying a patient who is suing the company. One of his demands, a payoff to cover the compensation he’d forgo by dropping the suit, requires simple inventory use in a generously timed puzzle. Another – acquiring food for the patients – needs significantly more work, especially when your apparent solution falls foul of company policy.

In terms of gameplay, two things will end up hampering players most. First, some actions require you to apply Emily’s psychotic viewpoint, a mindset that hopefully doesn’t come too easily to the game's players. Secondly, and rather more seriously, the environment changes unannounced over the course of the game. Some changes are obvious, such as the group session starting in therapy corner, but many are quite subtle. If you find yourself stuck, a tour of the area looking for differences may be the answer. Whilst the ground to cover is admittedly fairly small, so are some of the changes, making this a frustrating experience.

So, should you download this game? The answer to that question probably lies less in the gameplay issues and more in your attitude towards black comedy. If you find any sort of joke about murder or the mentally ill offensive then this game is most definitely not for you. If, on the other hand, you like your comedy with a darker tone then it’s worth your while putting up with some flaws for the setting and dialogue on offer. Whilst an hour or two should see you through the game, there is plenty of extra detail to enjoy for those who take their time and explore more thoroughly. If your tastes run in the right direction, you might find that Emily Enough : Imprisoned is just what the doctor ordered.

This game can be downloaded from the AGS website as a 7MB RAR file.

 

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