Title: Memory of Lilica: Disaster Report
Posted: August 14, 2009 (07:48 PM)
I'm sure some of you are thinking how totally characteristic of me this is 8). I used the web archive to find Lilica reviews that are not currently on HG or gamefaqs. It's one of her earliest.
You've already played this game, though probably under a different name. Taking place on earthquake-ravaged Stiver Island, Disaster Report desperately begs for attention with its innovative premise. Don't listen to its pleas. The execution limps across covered ground, delivering a half-baked loaf that tastes stale despite the fresh concept.
Disaster Report is an adventure game. Every review (mine included) establishes some link to the tired buzz-phrase 'survival horror' and it's my duty to inform you: there's no horror here. Nor is there action. Although demanding its fair share of survival skills, the excitement barely skirts the urban wilderness of Resident Evil 2, instead falling clumsily in line with adventures like Broken Sword. But let's not insult such a fine game – aside from standard adventure traits (third-person perspective and inventory management), Disaster Report merits no such comparison.
This third person is named Keith Helm, and he manages an inventory full of water bottles. Water bottles. After arriving on Stiver Island, the earthquake of the century derails his train, and Keith builds up an insatiable thirst while trying to escape. He drinks from the once-sprawling city's water fountains (doubling as save points) every ten minutes. Aside from water management, there are also several fetch quests. Fetch the rope. Fetch the key. Fetch. Unlike the classic Alone in the Dark, solutions to puzzles are obvious and spelled out, reliant upon obtaining an expected item to achieve an expected result.
Perhaps fearing to cause an increased pulse, Disaster Report makes certain to slow the frame rate to paramedic-frightening levels during the most potentially thrilling scenes. When buildings begin to fall, expect them to fall slowly. The lethargic motion is inexplicable, as the polygon models and textures aren't even particularly impressive (not surprising, considering the game was essentially developed in Irem's basement). Unlike the slow down of the classic Life Force, the speed reduction here does not assist in avoiding falling buildings. Many ground or ceiling collapses are triggered simply by stepping on the wrong floor tile, linking directly and immediately to an uncontrollable vision of Keith's death (yet often without an eye- or ear-pleasing smash). I avoid these pre-ordained deaths by remembering not to step on that particular tile the next time through; if there's a better way, I didn't figure it out and no one's telling. The generally-silent soundtrack punctuates these depressingly unsatisfying moments with dramatic bursts of music, a technique implemented far better in Tomb Raider. Yes, you really did read that. I positively compared the reviled Tomb Raider to this game.
The serendipitous nature with which the save points are strewn throughout the city irritated me. As though a box of thumbtacks were turned upside-down above a map of the city, no rhyme or reason controls the haphazard placement of the water fountains. In one area, two save-fountains pointlessly lie but steps away from each other; yet, prepare for the worst! You may find yourself traveling through hell and back before reaching high water (and another save point).
During his tepid journey across once-bustling Capital City, bouncing from fountain to fountain, Keith encounters a mere dozen people, including the token female partner Karen Morris, a helpless but vocal college student drawn with abnormally large feet and unrealistically triangular breasts. Between this perpetual victim and the absurdly leggy Kelly, we learn an important lesson: women get in the way, men save the day. I tolerated Yorda from Ico because she had cause to depend on another. Blind to her surroundings, secluded from the outside world, Yorda possessed no self-preservational experience. I can understand and pity such a person. Karen and Kelly are different. Fully capable of helping themselves, they instead choose to whine incessantly and depend on the first male who stumbles across them.
The overwhelming majority of Disaster Report focuses on avoiding aftershocks and surviving in the wake of the cataclysm. Fair enough. Such lofty goals may come across better on paper than on screen, but even so, the concept's potential shines through the polygon-obscuring fog of Capital City. Frustratingly, for the finale, Disaster Report casts aside this fantastic premise, thrusting Keith into a ridiculous game of cat and mouse against an assassin trained in the arts of stealth and rocket-launching, two traits that mix like oil and water. By this point, since Disaster Report focused so single mindedly on survival, it's too late to care about the dark machinations surrounding Stiver Island. It all feels very silly, as though the game suddenly noticed its own glaring dearth of action. And so a missile-flinging maniac is brought into the fold. Either the hastily-introduced political schemes should have pervaded the entirety of the adventure, or the finale should have focused on an earthquake the scale of which dwarfs the catastrophe at game beginning. As presented here, the climax comes across as comical and – dare I say it? – unstable.
In the end, Irem sold out. They blew their load, delivering all of their literally earth-shattering quakes early in the game. In the end, they had nothing bigger to offer, no more natural disasters, and so they offered a faceless man for the finale. I hope a more talented development team steals this idea and turns it into something excellent.
Posted: August 14, 2009 (10:33 PM)
I wonder if anyone still has that Love Blooms At Honestgamers poem.
haha one couplet was like even though I don't enjoy Chaos Legion, I still want to explore your glorious nether region.
Posted: August 14, 2009 (10:56 PM)
I don't remember that at all.