This week in Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews The Quarry.
Oh boy, another game from Supermassive "The Eternal Counterpoint to the Aphorism 'Practice Makes Perfect'" Games! Between Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures Anthology, Supermassive have made great strides in the medium of choose-your-own-adventure books, through the bold, innovative technique of including the motion-captured faces of the least expensive celebrities to ever set up a cameo account. Their new game, The Quarry, is their most ambitious choose-your-own-adventure book yet; there's a whole three recognizable celebrities in it. Admittedly, with a combined screen-time of about half an hour, but I suppose, after the developers cornered them at a convention, they only had a limited amount of time before the bodyguards broke down the toilet door.
I remember vaguely enjoying Until Dawn; I mean, for all that branching-path storytelling is supposed to offer, it had all the replay value of a traumatic leg amputation, but the over-the-top horror and the terribleness of the characters lent it a certain slasher B-movie charm. I found The Dark Pricktease Endoscopy to be one complete waste of time after another, so now, perhaps understandably, Supermassive have gone back to what worked and made Until Dawn 2: This Time, It's In a Haunted Quarry, 'cos it's pretty much the same fucking plot: bunch of teenagers played by out-of-work 27-year-olds come to party in an isolated house, there's an excruciatingly long setup period, and then monsters in the woods start picking them off. Only difference is, it's set in a summer camp, and that just means it took a break from copy-pasting Until Dawn to copy-paste Friday the 13th instead.
I'll say this for Supermassive Games: they are world-class experts at creating entire casts of characters that I instantly and completely despise. They should take a side-gig making war propaganda; if they made one of these games starring a bunch of Russian military officers, I'd join the Ukrainian defense force before you can say "Pierre Kirillovich Bezukhov". A lot of that comes from the animation; there's still an awkwardness about the motion capture faces, because, of course, "haunted quarry" is a synonym for "uncanny valley". There's something very wrong with everyone's mouths and teeth, like they've been enlarged in post-production or something; the stock sexy girl character, in particular, looks like she's trying to talk through a bagel that's been hot-glued to her face.
But the dialogue makes me hate them all, too; everyone's got a bad case of verbally explaining their personalities to each other. "Why are you always so upbeat?" "Why are you always cracking jokes?" Those were jokes, were they? Fucking news to me; I couldn't decipher them through your private language of arrogant snorts and constant needlessly abrasive digs at each other. Basically, every two-way dialogue choice comes down to "be a complete prick" or "be a partial prick", and even exclusively taking the second option, it still felt like everyone was trying to break the lonesomeness speed record. Okay, I hated you after six words of dialogue; let's see who can beat that. WHOA! Hold the phone; the buff jock dude's wearing a backwards baseball cap! He wins; he did it in zero!
So I hated them for how they looked and what they said, then they hit the triple by making me hate them for what they did, as well. The plot starts with Jock Dude deliberately sabotaging everyone's ride home so he can have another stab at getting his leg over Sexy Girl, and then, of course, everyone decides to have a noisy party, 'cos they're teenagers in a slasher movie and only possess three impulses: throw a noisy party, strip down to their underpants, or stand around gormlessly in front of a thing to which they can be easily nailed.
But let's leave my other story complaints for after the spoiler warning. There have been some gameplay refinements; the game no longer tracks each character's stats. I guess they realized that no one bought for a second that that was any less pointless than tracking their number of nostrils. And now there's a lives system; if someone dies, and you have some bizarre personality deviance that meant you didn't want them to die, you can spend a life to take back a choice or two and try to save them. Which I guess is a positive addition, 'cos once again, you have absolutely bugger-all hope of intuiting what outcome any of your decisions will have; you'll decide not to pick up a box of fireworks in Chapter Two, because you have no way of knowing you need them to fight the Venusian Cock Spigot at one specific point in Chapter Nine.
Besides that, yeah, it's Until Dawn again: choose-your-own-adventure format, quick-time events, horrible sticky third-person movement, smug weirdo narrator interrupting the action every now and again to remind you to put careful thought into your next completely random decision. And like all Supermassive's prior choose-your-own-adventure books, if the intention is to make me feel like I'm watching a movie, I'd think it was a very poorly-edited one; it's always painfully obvious when alternative dialogue's been swapped in, 'cos there'll be an awkward pause, and someone's emotional state will mysteriously swivel on a dime. The geography of each scene is very poorly-established. Characters have a weird habit of teleporting in and out of the room between cuts; like, we fight off a monster, and then, "Oh no, the monster is attacking Lance Henriksen now!", and I'm like, "When the fuck did Lance Henriksen get here? Was I supposed to intuit it from the general air of slightly improved acting talent in the atmosphere?"
So just before we get into some major plot spoilers, I'll just say that the janky charm of Supermassive's choose-your-own-adventure books is wearing seriously thin, and a good percentage of the dialogue scenes were so painful to watch, I could only get through them by gluing fake raised eyebrows to the screen so I could pretend everyone was just ironically being a hateful twat. Okay, spoiler time: so monsters show up in the woods, as I said, and weirdo redneck locals show up, as well. And the game tries so fucking hard to get us to think the weirdo redneck locals are baddies, and I didn't buy that for one second; right from the start, I assumed they were there to hunt the monsters, and were trying to protect the teenagers, but being slightly dickish about it.
I mean, Until Dawn had the exact same twist, yet The Quarry tries to desperately keep the pretense going for ages. "Oh no! You're caught in a trap, and here comes a weirdo redneck with a knife! Quick! Press the button to throw a rock at their head!" No, I will not press the button, because I think he's coming over to free me from the trap. "You don't know that! He's getting closer! Better press the button!" Honestly, I'm a little insulted you assumed I'd been prejudiced against them, just because they look like weirdo rednecks; you know you're just feeding into conservative America's persecution complex. Frankly, I'm more prejudiced against that one sexy girl character with the weird mouth, 'cos I worry if I take my eyes off her for one second, she's going to start biting the heads off of baby squirrels.
"Too late! The redneck's here! Last chance!" Oh, the timer ran out. What now, game? "Uh... UH... UH... Oh, your character got themselves free and ran away! Lucky them!" For fuck's sake! Why can we never just do what would be sensible? "'Cos then the game would be over in two minutes, Yahtz." Works for me, The Quarry! Walked right into that one, didn't you? Press X to avoid verbal trap.
- A dog person: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- There was something seriously wrong with the David Arquette face capture as well 'cos he looked like he had two croissants for a face
- Do you think Lance Henriksen regrets doing the Super Mario Bros. movie