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Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Frictional Games
Developer: The Chinese Room
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

You are plunged into complete darkness, under an altar that has been desecrated in unspeakable fashion. All you have is your basic instincts and an unreliable lantern. You take a look around, seeing nothing but cages, dead rodents, and blood. You can't trust your mind; you're hearing things, and possibly seeing them too. Suddenly, you hear a series of unsettling animal noises that sound like something far removed from the natural world. You extinguish the lantern and commit yourself to the pitch black. Now the noises are coming from a different direction, and they are louder. It becomes clear: you are being hunted by something you cannot fight, and your only options are to hide and hope that whatever it is goes away. Like its predecessor, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is an unforgettable flight of nightmarish fancy that is well worth the time and effort for anyone with the willpower and the stomach for it.

Dark. That word is Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs at its core, from its horrific subject matter to the visuals themselves. Like The Dark Descent, A Machine for Pigs wisely keeps you from seeing too much. When the game springs one of its scares, your imagination has already done most of the work for you. On the downside, A Machine for Pigs suffers from some performance issues. This isn't a game made for the most premium hardware, so the struggling framerate and frequent stutters aren't acceptable. However, all the steam, pipes, gears, and sketchy electronics firmly establish the late 19th century setting.

A Machine for Pigs is meant to be played in the dark with headphones, and for good reason. It's moody, disturbing, and frightening at times. As you walk through your mansion and below the surface, you'll hear some truly awful sounds -- and you'll never find out where they're coming from or what's making them. Bloodcurdling wails, inhuman snuffling sounds, and the otherworldly groans of steel and copper make it abundantly clear that you're occupying a place of pain. At key moments, the soundtrack kicks in; strings and vocals are the go-to musical resources for games like these, and they are used to grand effect in A Machine for Pigs. I didn't think the sound of despair could be so sweet, but I'm wrong about a lot of things these days.


Gameplay:

It is New Year's Eve, 1899. Oswald Mandus wakes up in an empty mansion, feverish and confused. His twin children Edwin and Enoch are calling to him from somewhere in the dark. His addled mind can only recall certain snippets of his life. Apart from his name, he knows he had a wife named Lilibeth. Also, he was on a business trip to Mexico and things went horribly, horribly wrong... and that's really it. Mandus picks up a lantern and starts following the voices, putting the pieces together with the help of scattered notes and missives, trying to find out what is going on and where his children are. Along the way, he is contacted by a mysterious voice who seems to know exactly where they are and exactly what Mandus must do to rescue them. And to go any further would be to risk spoilers in a game that really should not be spoiled for anyone. But I will say this: A Machine for Pigs features a sophisticated and thought-provoking narrative that touches on very real elements of the human condition. It's not the Lovecraftian freak show that The Dark Descent was; rather, it's a more grounded tale that addresses fate, family, and war in its own unique way.

A Machine for Pigs plays very similarly to The Dark Descent. The grand majority of the game is spent exploring and taking in the macabre sights and sounds. Here and there, you might have to locate something you need to advance, but by and large, A Machine for Pigs is even less of a traditional game. The logic puzzles from The Dark Descent are pretty much gone, save for a few "pick this up and put it there" and some obvious environmental manipulation objectives.


Difficulty:

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs doesn't have much in the way of gameplay, so I wouldn't really say it merits discussion on a topic like difficulty. It's an easy game to play; the (W) key and Left Mouse are essentially all you'll be using during the four or so hours it takes to get to the end. Navigation can be kind of a pain, but those who pay attention to their surroundings and carefully read Mandus' journal as new entries show up shouldn't have too much of a hard time with it.

That being said, you may die a few times before you finish the game. Certain sections force you into monster encounters; as long as they can't see or hear you, you're safe. However, it's easy to slip up in these sequences; Mandus does not move quickly when crouched, and the horrifying pig-men that stalk the depths of the mansion are fast and deadly.


Game Mechanics:

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs removes several of the "gamey" elements from The Dark Descent, and as a result, it's a shorter game. You're not using a lamp and your mansion has power, so no more rooting around for tinderboxes and flasks of oil. You can still exercise quite a bit of control around how you manipulate objects in the environment, just like in The Dark Descent and Penumbra before it. When you click on a door or a drawer, only you can determine how much or how little you wish to open it. This makes monster encounters particularly intense, as they are sensitive to sound.

A Machine for Pigs is all about exploration and discovery. Each room and hallway is designed to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb. Every scrap of paper fleshes out the grim narrative, and most interactive objects are there for a reason. You won't have to collect items and combine them to make something useful; no chemistry labs or anything of the sort lie underneath Mandus' mansion. Though the way forward isn't always clear, the protagonist always has a good idea of what must be done.

In the end, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is neither as scary nor as memorable as The Dark Descent. As far as content and time goes, it's both slimmer and shorter. But compared to most other modern horror games, it's still one of the scariest by far.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows Vista, High-range Intel Core i3/AMD A6CPU or equivalent, 2 GB RAM, Mid-range NVIDIA GeForce 200/AMD Radeon HD 5000, 5 GB HDD space
 

Test System:



ASUS G74S Series, Intel Core I7 - 2670QM, 2.2 GHz, Windows 7 Premium, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M, 12 GB RAM

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