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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Esoterica America

The game begins with a fetus. It ends with an English majoring suicide bomber.

I played this game. I beat this game. I stared at the ending screen and tried to understand this game.
So far, no luck.

I imagine this is what a transcendent, religious experience feels like; where words are useless.

Any attempt I make to describe this game will fall drastically short of the reality.
Just keep that in mind as you proceed.

Esoterica America starts off with this whole fetus thing, followed by a father-son chat with bizarre voice filters.

After that we wake up in boring old Grey-World where our hero Joe has just turned 21.
Joe dresses like an extra from an early 90's sitcom and walks like Guybrush Threepwood after suffering from a stroke. He also is destined for great things and his father loves him very much, or at least that's what everyone keeps telling him.

Animations (and depth drawing) aside, the game has a cool art style. The black-and-white looks good, especially when complemented by the Spirit World, where everything is balls-crazy with color.
It was this color scheme (and the clever name Esoterica America), that really grabbed my attention when I was sloughing through the XBLI crap pile.


At this point in the game I think some aliens visited me and told me that my old man was in the Realm of God. They also wished me a happy birthday.

After that, for reasons I can't really understand, I took a bus into downtown Washington D.C.

The main map, which lists a bunch of places but only one option is ever available at a time.
Is this a hidden message suggesting the illusion of free will?

As a game there's a good concept hiding under all the, "What the fuck am I playing?" moments.
You start a level by going to one of these lodges/cults/secret societies/funny-hat-clubs, and talk to their leader, which initiates a meditative trance (Never ask why in Esoterica America. Shit just happens).

To achieve a proper chi you need float around and fend off Earthly desires, like giant lips and clocks, by making funny noises and emitting shock-waves of spiritual annihilation.

If something hits you, it makes you kind of bounce away a little and I guess your overall chi meter might suffer, too; but the hell if I could tell if there was a health bar or not. I never died or anything.

But overall, it felt good, and the challenge was progressively difficult.

Afterwards, you go into this spirit world where a bunch of crazy looking oversouls hang out and give you tips and pages for your Esoterica America book, which you use to solve puzzles.

The second puzzle takes some effort.

The puzzles themselves start out challenging, or at least they require some effort of brainpower, but instead of getting harder they become easier, and the last one is a code that, instead of decoding, you just have to copy from your Esoterica America book, because the answer is written right there.

Why do you do any of these things? I have absolutely no idea.

This man hated his gay son,
but I cured his homophobia through the power of meditation.

I almost forgot to mention: Buffalo Souljah.
There's a game inside this game that you can play in Sam's mother's room (Sam doesn't seem to have a console of his own). It's called Buffalo Souljah and it begins with the worst rendition of Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier that I've ever heard in my life. The game itself is some guy wielding two handguns, standing on top of a VW bus in the middle of his pot farm, shooting down crop planes, Federal helicopters and UFOs.

Despite the life bar in the corner, nothing ever hurts you; and if you point your crosshairs down then your dude will take a huge hit and blow smoke all over the place.

So I put the controller down and watched this guy smoke weed for about three minutes.

And nothing happened.

Pot would go a long way in explaining the development of this game.

1 comment:

  1. Something about this reminds me of Manhunter: New York. I think it's the combination of the city map, the mysteriously symbolic puzzles in which the symbols are never explained, and the constant feeling of "what the fuck am I doing?"

    I would be somewhat interested in trying it, but I'm getting the impression there isn't enough meat to it, and the game's simpler than it looks.