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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

While I was Sick - Off the Beaten Track



Released February 23, 2010

During a good portion of last week, I had a stomach bug that persisted on lasting for a good four days. During this time, I didn't do much reading at all, hence the lack of posts. Instead, I curled up on the sofa and played Heavy Rain (PS3) a new game that, at heart, is an interactive mystery.

I like playing games, but I'm of the era where we spent hours playing King's Quest or Leisure Suit Larry point and click games. There were some challenging scenes, but most required you to think fast on your feet and deduce clues along the way.

Heavy Rain is the new era of these games. You start the game as Ethan, a family man who's son is about to celebrate a birthday. Along the way, you make Ethan decide what he'll do while his family is out shopping. Does he brush his teeth or skip it? Will he get a jump start on next week's work? All of your choices shape the character's future.

Eventually, Ethan and his wife end up at the mall with their children and one gets lost. When Ethan finds him, the kid runs into the road, gets hit and dies. The game skips forward two years. Now Ethan and his wife have split and he shares custody of their other son. Everyone's depressed. The heavy rain hitting Portland isn't helping. There's a killer on the loose. He's kidnapping young boys, drowning them and placing both an orchid and origami figure on their bodies. Soon Ethan's other son, Sean, is kidnapped by the Origami Killer and Ethan becomes desperate to find Sean before it is too  late.

Throughout the game, you make choices that affect the game's final outcome. You switch between characters. Ethan's role is obvious, but you'll also play as a reporter named Madison who has the potential to become a love-interest for Ethan. There's Scott, the portly private eye hired by some of the victims' families. FBI Agent Norman Jayden and his cool gadgetry was one of my favorites. And then you also get to play for a short while as a young boy towards the end.

My son played through Heavy Rain first, so I knew the killer's identity already, but ended up with a completely different outcome. It's kind of a Choose-Your-Own adventure book but on the television screen. If you want a game that is nothing like you've played in recent years, this one's fascinating. There are some plot holes that still leave me scratching my head, the voice acting and writing could have been a little better, but I still think the game is well worth it.

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