Lately, the interactive story game seems to be in vogue. There was “Gone Home,” a game that was essentially about going home and walking through said home. Now there’s “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs,” Frictional Games’ sequel to its popular sanity-twisting horror adventure “Amnesia: The Dark Descent.”
Like it’s predecessor, “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” takes an atmospheric, “what you can’t see might actually hurt you” approach to scary. However, a Victorian industrial feel replaces “A Dark Descent’s” castle dungeons. Players take on the role of Oswald Mandus, a very British man who wakes up in a big scary mansion with no idea where he is or what’s going on (hence the whole “amnesia” thing). All you know is your very British children are missing and you have to find them.
“A Machine for Pigs” follows the same essential pattern of “The Dark Descent”—you must make your way through an increasingly-crazy place while trying to figure out why it’s gone all crazy and how much you had to do with that process. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot.
Beneath the elegant mansion is a grand machine (one involving pigs, obviously) that grows increasingly complex as players make their way into its bowels. The deeper I went, the smaller I felt, and if the game weren’t so linear, I likely would’ve gotten lost. The machine, originally a giant slaughterhouse, serves both as an environment and a monster.
Compounding the fear of the grotesque bipedal man-pigs that lurk in the machine’s tunnels and catwalks is the dread of knowing; as I discovered cryptic notes and recordings, I began to realize I did terrible things before losing my memory. “A Machine for Pigs” has a sort of creeping horror as opposed to the in-your-face jump scares of games like “Dead Space.”
While “A Machine for Pigs” could be classified as a “survival horror” game, there’s really very little “surviving” to be done. Unlike “The Dark Descent,” which had a sanity meter that fell if you sat there and stared at scary stuff for too long, “A Machine for Pigs” lets you stand around and look all you want. Also, Mandus must have forgotten to wear pants, or is wearing a unitard with no pockets, since “A Machine for Pigs” nixed the inventory system.
The game is also practically impossible to fail, to the point of confusing surprise. At one point, I watched a man-pig run into a room, so I stood outside thinking of what to do to avoid it. Finally, I walked in, and nothing happened. Scripted events, while providing a little scare, are harmless. Dying actually proved advantageous in the rare times it happened, as I woke up ahead of whatever killed me in the first place. However, dying will be very rare, since the pig-men aren’t very bright.
Still, “Amnesia: A Slice of Bacon” spins a very well-written story and does a fine job of immersing the player in its cold, industrial world. The exposition is clear without being blunt, still leaving the details to the player’s imagination. While the gameplay really only consists of walking around, it’s an enjoyably creepy walk.