All right, so last time I posted, 17 eons ago, we talked about Indigo Prophecy. A for the most part interesting, but very deeply flawed game in terms of both story and gameplay. While I still enjoyed the game, I still recognize how flawed it was. I more or less enjoyed it for what it could’ve been rather than for what it was. Why do I say this? Because I feel the same way about this little indie game, 4pm.
#1 And she says baby!.. it’s 4pm and I must be lonely!
Oh wait, silly me, I was thinking of 3am. (Congrats to the people who got that reference, all one of you.)
Anyways, both this game and Indigo Prophecy have quite a bit in common, in the sense that they both are movie-like games. But 4pm is 1st person instead of 3rd. Both games try for cinematic storytelling with varying degrees of success.
While Indigo Prophecy was about supernatural, batshit insanity, 4pm tries to tell a more down-to-earth, human story… emphasis on tries.
I did read a Destructoid review of this game before I wrote this and they gave it a 7/10.
This struck me as odd mostly cause if you look at the Steam store page, it sits at Mostly Negative.
If you don’t know, Mostly Negative means that less than 25% of the reviews are positive for this game.
Allow me to ask the obvious question: Why would Destructoid rate it as “Good,” while everyone else seems to disagree on mass? Could Destructiod be bought off, or are they see something that everyone else is missing?
While gaming journalists have a tendency of being dirty little liars *Cough* Dragon Age 2 *Cough* Watch Dogs *Cough* Destiny *Cough* Sorry I’m feeling kinda sick today.
Anyway, I severely doubt this is the case. This game was developed by one person, Bojan Brbora, Strange name I know, but people who are one person studios have no where near the resources to buy off gaming journalist publications. So that’s out the window.
So how do I explain this? Well, I think they touched on a lot of things I agree with. Their description of the game is accurate and doesn’t at any point seem biased. I think they did touch on things other people may have never stopped to consider.
So without further ado, let me tell what I have to say about this game. Make sure you wear your seat-belt viewer.
#2 Don’t drink and drive kids.
So we drop into the live of Caroline. This fine young lady here:
She kinda looks like she’s recovering from some horrific 3rd degree burns.
Ok, so these aren’t the best graphics around, but fuck that shit, as long as the story’s good, it might grow on me after a while right?.. Right?..
Like I’ve said before, 4pm tries to tell a more down-to-earth story about the human condition. It touches on things like addiction, self-control, and taking responsibility for your mistakes.
Caroline here, while seeming fairly up-beat and happy, has a deep problem. She’s a bit of a heavy drinker. A little bit more than heavy, scratch that, a lot more. As evidence by:
Not only that, but she gets so drunk at a party, that she literally throws up. Now, I personally don’t drink, but I do know that if you drink enough to make yourself throw up, you drank too much, period.
This is just an average day in the life of Caroline. Getting blacked out drunk, then forgetting to go to work in the morning to a boss who is every variety of dick possible.
I’m sure every human being on the face of the planet can relate to that.
From what I could interprete, it would seem that Caroline was driving drunk one night and got into a car wreak. She survived, but her father did not. And it would seem that Caroline has completely forgot about it. Fuck me, how drunk do you have to be to forget that?!
Oh boy, this sounds like a story full of really touching moments with characters we grow to care about and what to succeed in fighting and overcoming their problems. That’s what you’re expecting right? I was too. But sadly that’s not the case here.
First off, this game does advertise itself as a “… short, narrative driven game, made by one person…” Which is all fine and good and I think it is really impressive as one person project. But the lack of budget truly shows, not only in the graphics, but also in the place where it matters most, the narrative itself.
This game, no joke, can be beaten in about 25 minutes.
Having that in mind, let’s just imagine in how many ways this ruins the story.
First and foremost, the story is condensed as hell. I do understand there is such things as Short Stories, but I think it’s too short to even be considered that. The big climax of the story kinda feels like it comes out of nowhere. Not to mention the ending makes me feel like the entire story was pointless. I’m talking about the last 5 or so minutes of the game, where Caroline was off to the bathroom to throw up, and at the party she encounters a guy named James. She gets his card and we find out later (At the near end of the story) that James had been cheating on his wife with Caroline. At least, that’s what I presumed. At this point, James just got divorced and is now planning to kill himself. Caroline is trying to sneak out for a drink at this point, she has a real one track mind if you couldn’t tell already.
The game does a very weird thing by giving you a choice between going to the bar or going to save James from killing himself. It’s really a non-choice cause if you go to the bar, it’s pretty much a game over. Which makes me question why it was there in the first place other than David Cage did it as well. It comes off like he knows that alternative choices exist in games, but he doesn’t understand the purpose of it.
Second of all, I find this game kinda hard to take seriously overall, even though on paper that shouldn’t have been the case. I went to the bar the first time and when I saw James land on the taxi cab just outside, I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off! I’m not joking. That shouldn’t have been funny, but it was. If that happens, you did something wrong. Just saying.
All of the major plot points explained earlier, all of that could make a very good story if it was given time to be fleshed out. But instead, all of it was explained at the tail end of the story, the falling action so to say. It’s not really a falling action, it just ends, which also makes it barely a resolution. It all feels rushed basically. How do you realistically expect people to take this game seriously if you barely explain what the hell is going on!?
(Or maybe it’s because I’m a horrible person, I don’t know. I don’t find the concept of death that funny. Not entirely. 0_0)
Third of all, I don’t think this story works as a short story. Neither do I think short stories can work in video games at all in fact.
You see, when it comes to stories in video games: Creating, explaining, and crafting a universe is a huge part of the game for one big reason, because it’s inherently a world you can interact with! It’s what gives the story life in a video game.
And if the story is this short, it kinda kills the potential of the world. You just don’t give enough time to really flesh out the characters and the world. The story more or less didn’t feel like a story, it felt like the synopsis of a story. You know, like the Wikipedia plot summery? It’s like that.
#3 Is 4pm bad or not?
Once again, I do think this game is great for a one man project. But sadly I think this game is way over his head. His really good ideas are weighed down by lackluster presentation.
I think this game would’ve been a lot better if it was episodic. Think about it.
It would allow the dev more development time without inflating the budget of his product, therefore reducing the asking price and possibly selling a lot more copies as well as being monumentally better received. It would also solve the story’s biggest issue, the fact that it feels rushed. That wouldn’t be the case if he did this!
But he chose not to, which makes me pretty sad. It seriously could’ve been good
If I had anything to say to Bojan, I would tell him to not give up. He has some great ideas, and there are better ways of doing it. He should seriously consider episodic releases.
Let me say this one last time, I don’t hate this game. For all it’s faults, it has a charm. I hope to see this guy do more stuff in the future, I really do.
I’m Praxsi, thanks for reading, Peace, the fuck, out!