A pass­able in­stal­ment to a grow­ing sub­genre

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - ENTERTAINM­ENT -

LOVECRAFT-IN­SPIRED me­dia of­ten tends to suc­cumb to pas­tiche and hack­neyed trap­pings. There can only be so many vari­a­tians of sup­posed night­mar­ish crea­tures with un­usual num­bers of ap­pendages be­fore the record be­gins sound­ing the same. The Sink­ing City may of­fer ab­so­lutely noth­ing to re­fute this crit­i­cism - par­tic­u­larly with its al­most over­bear­ing reliance on Lovecraft ref­er­ences and riffs on canon­i­cal ma­te­rial - but what it does of­fer is an­other pass­able in­stal­ment to an ever-grow­ing sub­genre of gam­ing.

The main char­ac­ter al­most feels like a meta-crit­i­cism of the genre. A pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor of dry dis­po­si­tion with bad vision seems al­most too cliche to not be deliberate, but nev­er­the­less Reed grows to be a rather like­able and solid lead­ing part. The same goes for al­most ev­ery cliche el­e­ment in The Sink­ing City though well-trod­den, they al­most all end up com­bin­ing to form a com­pelling and de­light­fully un­pre­dictable story.

An­other point scored for The Sink­ing City is in the en­vi­ron­ment - the fic­tional is­land of Oak­mont Mas­sachusetts that has suf­fered a dev­as­tat­ing flood is in­dul­gent with re­gard to the sheer den­sity of eye-candy on of­fer. Tak­ing cues from the greats of op­pres­sive at­mos­pheres - Bioshock and Si­lent Hill - you can never be sure what is lurk­ing around the next corner - or in The Sink­ing City’s case - what is lurk­ing di­rectly be­neath you.

Out­side of the thor­oughly en­gross­ing plot, The Sink­ing City is some­what let down by baf­fling and clunky quest me­chan­ics and an even more la­bo­ri­ous com­bat and gen­eral control sys­tems. Of­ten be­moaned by crit­ics is mod­ern gam­ing’s in­sis­tence on cater­ing to the most ca­sual of play­ers with ex­ces­sive hand-hold­ing but it ap­pears The Sink­ing City has taken these crit­i­cisms a lit­tle too much to heart with a quest re­search sys­tem that al­most ex­clu­sively falls on the spec­trum some­where bewtween head-scratch­ing and hair-pulling.

Where the odd re­search sys­tem fails, the Mind Palace ex­cels, allowing the player to cat­a­logue and re­ar­range a vast va­ri­ety of clues and moral dilem­mas per­tain­ing to char­ac­ters within the game. It is a real ex­er­cize in im­mer­sion, par­tic­u­larly for a game re­volv­ing around a pri­vate de­tec­tive.

The Sink­ing City is ac­tu­ally a very en­joy­able game with some let downs that may be make-or-break, de­pend­ing on your level of for­give­ness to­wards clunky con­trols and your tol­er­ance for of­ten ex­tremely ob­scure quest hints and prompts that could leave you grit­ting your teeth for hours on end.

The Sink­ing City is a very en­joy­able game with some let downs.

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