PEGBRJE: And All Would Cry Beware! and The Enigma Machine
Lo-fi games to chill/explore to
And All Would Cry Beware! is an FPS adventure title made by Tales of the Renegade Sector, pseudonym for a solo dev that has created many projects within this old-school aesthetic. My personal experience with these older style games is slightly lacking, as the only title I enjoyed from that era was Star Wars: Dark Forces, which utilized a few of these mechanics hence my slight familiarity with the exploration tactics. Regardless, players are an unnamed protagonist, escaping from a gang in the torn up streets of alternate Los Angeles as they take shelter in an office building for Wayfarer Inc. Exploring within, they come across a bizarre laboratory underneath which opens a portal to a lush and neon-coloured world. What lies within this world, and what happened to those people that opened it the first time?
AAWCB is reminiscent to old FPS adventure games that were popularized by the creation of DOOM back in 1993, featuring various guns to collect and simple polygonal environments to platform around while firing. These environmental pieces, as one finds out, act as walls and platforms depending on the player’s orientation and location, giving a much needed verticality to the world as the goal is on the top of a mountain visible from the start. Enemies are bizarre shape-like aliens, behaving in straightforward violent patterns as they attack anything that they can see or locate. There’s a slight Metroidvania inspirational feel to the exploration, as many areas are locked behind strange walls that appear to be destructible. Upon acquiring the shotgun (the second gun), players realize that each gun has a secondary property in destroying certain pathways in order to explore farther, and continue on their journey of discovery. The world is gated with this in mind, as pathways funnel players towards their goal without giving any real direction besides ‘well, there’s nowhere else to go as I can’t destroy that yet’.
The story is uncovered through written audio logs, scattered mysteriously throughout the world detailing the expedition team that came beforehand. They detail bits and pieces to nudge the player forward, highlighting their initial landing and first contact with these odd shapes that attacked. The story is purposefully somewhat out of order to leave holes in the story for players to fill with their own ideas until they find the documentation to prove otherwise, motivating them to explore and discover the next one. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it was compelling and — importantly — understandable enough to keep my interested in their names and lives afterwards.
AAWCB is a shorter experience, one that I finished within 45 minutes and allows for some replayability thanks to the history log placement and 2 endings. The levels are interconnected as the entire playable world is technically available to the player from the beginning (no invisible walls, no separation of areas by instances, etc) and once the rocket launcher is acquired the whole world is opened thanks to rocket jumping. If you were a fan of older-school shooters that love verticality and endless bullets in a smaller game package, this is definitely a game to try out.
The Enigma Machine is a thrilling puzzle narrative posing a simple question; what goes on within the mind of a possibly unstable AI? The developer Enigma, pseudonym of Jamie Gavin, has created a simulation within a futuristic world where an agent is taking a test experience in order to dive into the minds of AI properly. Guided by the helpful AI demOS, players will learn how to gather codes within an AI’s mind in order to help ‘decontaminate’ them, while learning protocols and unravelling just how far they can go.
Players will enter a level after some conversation with demOS, setting up their name and age prior, and begin searching for the hidden ‘codes’ that are to represent an AI’s hidden functions. These codes are needed to activate the decontamination process within an AI, and become harder and harder to acquire as the process moves forward. Puzzles start to string together in bizarre and mindbending ways, to the point that I had to look up a few answers in order to fully understand what to do next. Thankfully, this is just a simulation as demOS said, a practice run for the real thing coming up later, so levels aren’t interconnected as they would be in a proper AI and the codes are just for practice. Right? Well…
Fair warning, this game is terrifying, although that may not mean much given my history of being terrified by practically everything. I’ve played horror games within this bundle, and I know I’m very much an absolute scaredy cat. Thing is, The Enigma Machine blends together it’s empty atmosphere perfectly; players are addressed directly by demOS at all times, as it is the player themselves that are handling the simulation. The avatar that players control is representative of their being within, which means that the entire game is just an interaction between the player and demOS. The more players delve into the levels that demOS has provided as practice, the more demOS learns of themselves and the history of why this simulation exists becomes apparent. I won’t say much further, but the final act is utterly phenomenal in a nail-biting sort of way, to the point that I actually wanted to finish a horror game. Unfortunately, a few things went wrong for me, namely that my right click on my mouse gave out, so I had to watch somebody else complete it. There’s also the mild warning that (spoilers) as the world state breaks down, so do the visuals, and there were many times that I couldn’t actually see where I was going or what I was doing. Something to keep in mind when playing.
The Enigma Machine is a beautiful piece of storytelling through thrill and fear, one that utilizes its small space and resources to the fullest. Every puzzle triggers something new within the world, changing the gamestate and forcing players to learn something new until it culminates in something utterly horrific. If I wasn’t a wimp (and my mouse didn’t need replacing) I’d finish it. For anyone that loves retro horror titles and wishes to know more about what goes on within an android’s mind, you will love this title.
PS: Special Thanks to “Let’s Game It Out” for having a 4 part special series on the title for me to watch the ending sequence of this game for, I really wanted to know.
Linklings be here
And All Would Cry Beware!
Pursued through the ruined streets of Los Angeles, harried by a roving Kill Gang, perhaps it was simple survival…