Exploring through a mountain turned dungeon staring at the same tile-set on the walls for hours on end may sound like something that would make for a dull and tedious game. Especially when the game limits you movement capabilities to a square-based grid and tosses environmental puzzles your way that could be easily solved if you could stand at a diagonal position. Then there’s the odd dial-a-spell magic system and unclear narrative that come off as clumsy. But somehow, Legend of Grimrock, developed by Finnish studio (seriously, is there anything the Finns can’t do?) Almost Human, have taken all of these bad design troupes and used them in a way that makes the game a highly memorable, and more importantly, deeply engaging game experience that should not be missed.
If you are familiar with old-school first person PC RPGs like Eye of the Beholder, than you should know exactly what you’re getting into here, so you can stop reading and just go play the game and get full satisfaction. For others, in Legend of Grimrock, everything is based on square tiles, the map, movement, puzzles, etc. Even your adventuring party is square; a group of 4 that your design yourself whom are all chained together, have been charged with a crime and cast into a mountain cum dungeon, Mt. Grimrock. Your task is to escape the mountain, and if you do so, your crimes will be absolved.
Comedy in video games is something quite rare. I can only think of a handful of games that can make me honestly laugh my ass off with truly genuine jokes and situations. The first Portal, a toss in bonus game that was included in Valve’s deal of the century, “The Orange Box”, blew me away. Let alone that the ingenious gameplay concept was one of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a game in years, the humor and writing in it were honed to perfection spurring one of the biggest memes in internet history, “The cake is a lie.” Valve had created an unintentional monster and Portal went on to be lauded as on of the best games of this current console generation(and according to many reputable game sites, the best game ever). Valve had some hefty expectations to live up to when making a sequel to a game held in such high reverence. And did they do it, well in short, you better bet your ass they did.
Have you ever seen the movie Night of the Living Dead? What that movie did is present a bleak outlook, created deepened horror, and created a contrasting effect on the subject matter by deciding to use black and white in lieu of color. It works extremely well and adds another layer of depth to the film. When used properly(like the aforementioned film) this trick can add more artistic merit to the film and in the end what you get is more of an experience more so than entertainment.
So, why am I talking about movies when I should be reviewing a video game. Well video games have as many things in common with movies as they do differences. One of the things they have in common is how an artistic choice can have a major impact on the whole of a game giving it a whole different meaning. This artistic choice in question is the use of black and white. In the 2D side scrolling platform/puzzle game Limbo by Playdead Studios you traverse a world completely devoid of color as you push forward to discover the purpose of your journey. The lack of color in this game creates a harrowing experience that, unlike a movie, can only be experienced in video game form.