Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SC on Calling (Wii)

(If you're somehow reading this and don't know about it, I did a blind run of this game on my YouTube channel.  Link is relevant.)

Why?  Why why why why WHYYYY?!

Yes.  It's come to this.  I need catharsis goddamnit and you will witness it!

I said at the beginning of the game that I was keeping tabs on Hudson's game quality (or lack thereof).  I was only half-kidding.  With the scars of Bloody Roar 4 that may never heal, I visited Hudson's web site to read yet another "Make Bloody Roar 5" topic and saw them pimping the hell out of this game from last March with ad after ad after ad.  I went into this game with that blind hope I sometimes have that Hudson had learned from their mistakes and that a game will simply be misunderstood or have flown under the radar of critics who were simply meeting a deadline or not paid enough to give the game a positive review.  In related news, I'm an idiot.

Let's play a game: name the last survival horror game Hudson made before Calling.  Answer: <none>.  Strike one!  Now look at the basis for the game: cell phones and ghosts.  Sounds a lot like "One Missed Call" huh?  Only problem is that movie was from 2004, 2008 if you're thinking of the American remake.  Considering as how Hudson is stationed in Japan though, that means they're 6 years behind when this game could have been relevant.  Strike two!  And lastly, let's make sure this game is REALLY scary to American audiences by not translating any of the Japanese that shows up outside of the dialogue so that finding scribbled phrases in lockers or on walls has absolutely no effect on the player.  Strike three!

The Pittsburgh-fucking-Pirates are better than Calling.

Here's the lowdown on Calling's plot.  People have been disappearing after going to this website called The Black Page and talking in the chat room.  How do people find out about this page you might ask?  Simple, it's advertised in an occult magazine.

Two sentences into the story and it's already complete bullshit.  Why is no one investigating the magazine?  Why didn't someone step in the first time people disappeared after going to this site and make the connection?  Who's hosting the web site?  Ghosts?  Do they have ISPs and high-speed servers in whatever void they're in?  Keep in mind there's a counter on the page supposedly showing how many people have died visiting it and after the game's opening cutscene it's at 961 people!  This is stupid beyond stupid.

Actually, let me say all the positive things I can about the game first, just to establish that I'm not entirely against the game.  It controls well.  It takes some getting used to since aiming the Wiimote to the sides of the screen turns, but it works and it works way better than Ju-On the Grudge: Haunted House Simulator ever did.  Running, quick turns, circle-strafing, ducking, looking around rooms, everything controls just great.

There.  Positivity complete.

Where's the sign with an arrow saying "Fuck Off" under it?

It's hard to properly encapsulate just how bad this game really gets, but I'll try.  Remember how, in the great survival horror debate between Silent Hill and Resident Evil, people would talk about how Silent Hill was more about atmosphere and Resident Evil relied too much on jump scares?  Calling is jump scares.  99% jump scares.  You wouldn't necessarily think that about a game where you spend all of your time wandering around dark buildings with and without a flashlight, but that's the case. Jump scares opening doors, jump scares picking up items, even jump scares just from hitting the quick turn button.  Not only that, most of them are painfully predictable.  The ones that's aren't are typically effects that appear at random either while walking around or while quick-turning--small faces appearing for a millisecond, what looks to be some girls hair-covered face falling down one side of the screen--and trust me, this sounds way scarier than it actually is.  Internet screamers, Chris-chan, suicide mouse, and Goosebumps books are all scarier than this.

To "amplify" the effect of these jump scares, most of Calling is played in absolute dead silence.  The only thing you hear for the fair share of the game is your own character's footsteps and a phone ringing now and then.  Now and then there's a clicking sound which I think is the game trying to say "ghosts are doing shit!  Be scared!  WooOOooOOOoOOOOoooo!" but outside of that the only thing close to music is the panic score that plays either when you're caught by a ghost or when a sequence triggers where the character needs to run away for whatever reason.

This picture?  Yeah, it's scarier than Calling.

I keep saying "your character" because it switches over the course of the game.  Four different people are played as: a stupid teenage guy, a stupid girl, an old lady, and Luis Sera... I mean some guy from a newspaper whose friend was stupid, making him stupid by association.  As a result there are four different people and three different stories going on in addition to the overlying idea of The Black Page, meaning plot points get introduced, dropped, picked back up, conflict with other plot points, and get dropped again.  Can you think of anything that would make this design choice worse?

If you said 'Make it so the old lady can't duck, run, or quick turn because we want to be realistic in our game about ghosts in an alternate dimension with teleporting cellphones which is accessed from a chatroom,' you're absolutely right!

I'll be right back.  I need to look up more synonyms for "stupid."

This shirt?  Yeah, it's smarter than anything in Calling.

While typing that last paragraph I accidentally used the word 'innovative' instead of realistic and quickly deleted it.  This was entirely necessary because what was "original" was a cliche mess of a story with mind-numbingly boring gameplay, and what wasn't was borrowed from every Japanese horror movie with a little dead girl in it.  Hair comes out of the wall and holds doors shut on several occasions, and this game is actually reminding me that the Ju-On Wii game also sucked, but I would have finished it much faster which makes it far superior in my book.

Then I get to a house where the game rips off the Ju-On movie.  A long-haired dead pseudo-ghost girl crawls down a staircase while spazzing like Kayako in The Grudge.  This is never explained or mentioned again after it happens.  Suddenly there are not enough expletives in the world to encapsulate how much I hate this game.

Oh, but I've just been dodging the REAL issue so far.  Gameplay!  Or what little there is!  TALLY HO!

Cool Cat getting hammered?  WAY more entertaining than Calling.

 Try this: think of something that you may or may not actually own.  Now get up and look around the house for it.  While doing this, open the same closets and desk drawers several times hoping it magically appears there.  This is the bulk of Calling's gameplay.  The game has random notes, files, and puzzle items scattered around its different locations, several of which are found by looking through drawers and cabinets or exploring dead ends.  For completionists or anyone trying to make sense of the plot, that means going through every drawer, cabinet, locker, and closet to get a slight clue of what's going on or a little backstory about certain people.  Shenmue did the very same thing, and it didn't work well then either.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, however, the drawer/locker/cabinet/closet will have the exact same contents as the last twenty drawers/lockers/cabinets/closets.  I lost track of how many brooms there were in the school after finding them in every single goddamn locker I could open.  I still don't know if this is as lazy a design choice as finding absolutely nothing in most of the desk drawers and cabinets.

Oh, and sometimes there will be some untranslated Japanese scribbled neatly inside the drawer/locker/cabinet/closet which means absolutely nothing to anyone who can't read it since none of the characters can examine it to tell us what it means.

OH MY GOD HE THINKS CALLING IS SCARY- oh wait no he's just yawning.

The phone itself, aside from dialing and receiving calls, can record EVPs (ghosts talking) in specific places, take pictures, and receive (but not send) messages.  In the beginning there are a couple different phones that the characters find, but after a few levels everyone seems to find the same bland, off-white cell phone in every location they visit.  I'm chalking this up to laziness because the game clearly states that when a person calls a number to teleport the phone gets left behind and a person can't call their own number.

Wait a minute.  There are a few times when a character gets called by either a ghost or another character.  How come the ghost/character doesn't teleport to them?  And why don't they just call the phone numbers of their friends outside of the abyss they're in?  Whose cell phones are these?  And how come they were brought into the abyss but not the cell phones of the people we saw in the chat r-STUPID!  STUPID!  STUPID!

... Somehow not as stupid as Calling.

 When a ghost DOES show up and grabs whoever the player is, this triggers a "fright event," which is possibly the lamest name they could have given it.  The idea is to shake the Wiimote and enter a button queue to fend off the ghost before it depletes the "horror meter," otherwise known as "Resident Evil health indicator with more wavy lines."  In true Hudson fashion, this doesn't work for a few reasons:

1. It looks like the ghost is groping you to death.
2. The horror meter regenerates.
3. You need to let the ghost attack for a long time for the horror meter to actually go... down? ... up? ... uh... be more wavy and turn red.
4. The ghosts can attack multiple times within a short time span and do absolutely nothing to the horror meter.  They're literally nothing more than a waste of time, and
5. The button queue.  Is always.  The same.  Fucking.  Button.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold your new god!

And just when I think this game can't possibly screw up any more than it already has, I beat the game the first time and find that the game doesn't stop.  It keeps going, but this time it goes back through all the events of the story in order.

I'm going to repeat that.

The first playthrough of the game has the events of the story intentionally out of order.  Playing through it a second time shows everything in order.

Fuck you, Hudson.

No caption necessary.  Oh wait...

What's the logic behind this?  If we confuse the hell out of the player they'll have to play it again to figure out what's happening?  No!  Get it right the first time you morons!  Your extras should not be shit that belongs in the core of the game!  I don't care that some chapters are new.  I don't care that the repeated chapters are skippable.  I don't give two shits about the lady in red or how some jump scares are in slightly different places.  Don't tell me I'm done, then show me the other half of the game like I was just beta-testing your game for the first few hours.

Even then the final revelation STILL doesn't make sense.  You're telling me the little girl is the cause of the void these people are getting trapped in?  How?  How long has this been going on to the point where she's claimed over 900 people?!  Were people disappearing before then and if so why wasn't this explained?  Why does the little girl have cat eyes?  Why is she always carrying around the cat doll?  Why does the ending have to not only make Rin look fucking stupid but the little girl look like a stupid, conniving bitch for continuing to be a stupid, conniving bitch after getting catharsis, making her peace and not doing jack shit about it?

I don't drink... but sometimes I wish I did.

Do I even need to spell out a final verdict on this game?  It's awful.  It's an insult to horror movie and game fans, Wii owners, cell phones, fat people, and Japanese cinema.  Any given episode of Jackass has more thought put into it than this game.  My Wii hates me for having played it at all.  I can tell by the way the wired connection has been acting up and the sudden appearance of a Mii named YDIDUDOIT with long black hair and soulless eyes.

It's official.  My Wii is scarier than Calling now.