Now usually, with our reviews, we like to have at least three of our writers contribute their thoughts. But, with the PC game Penumbra: Overture Episode One, we were a little short, but still wanted to let you know about this title. Because, let's be honest, the chances you've actually heard of it are slim at best.
So, hit the jump for the review of Penumbra: Overture Episode One and see what you think.
Penumbra: Overture is the first episode in an upcoming series of first-person horror games created by Frictional Games. The setting for this game is a seemingly deserted mining facility located somewhere in Greenland. It may sound a bit stereotypical, but Penumbra pulls off this setting very well by using some great lighting effects and immersive sound design. Unfortunately, the layout of the various rooms and corridors seems very uninspired due to a lot of rehashing of objects and textures.
Your weakness is evident the moment you try to fight an enemy with your brawn alone. As with everything else, combat is a thought-provoking situation. Picking up a large object and hurling it at your enemy to knock them to the ground is a great option, or perhaps you can sneak past using stealth to avoid a confrontation completely. Sadly, the clunky combat control system lacks any sort of accuracy when you try to actually hit an enemy and comes off being more frustrating and sloppy than enjoyable. Another big personal turn off is a lack of rendered hand models --- the items just kind of float in front of you when you swing.
First things first: If you played Call of Cthulhu and loved it up to the point where you got a gun, then Overture is for you. It's been specifically designed for those gamers who love the horror genre, but are tired of all the overblown action and combat that comes with it.
You play a regular guy with no special abilities, and so the focus is on puzzles, mood, and avoiding combat rather than hiding. If you ever do need to kill an enemy, then you can almost always use your environment to do so (trapping a baddie next to a steam valve and then turning it on full blast, for example). The bulk of the game's puzzles are physics based. The puzzles make sense and fit well into the overall flow of the game, because you aren't constantly feeling that the developers are just throwing random ideas at you and forcing you to cope with them.
While some of the puzzles don't really pan out, most of them do, and they do so without ever feeling forced. The atmosphere is awesome, too -- the lighting is fantastic, and everything you grab has a tactile feel as the game forces you to move your mouse around in circles to spin a wheel, or pull it back to open a door, and so on.
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