Sat 17 Mar 2012
The recent success of Dear Esther shows there’s a real market for atmospheric first-person games that play more like an interactive story than a traditional game. Process is such a game. In terms of game mechanics, it’s a lot like Myst, although atmospherically it feels like a survival horror game. But ultimately, it is neither, and perhaps best described as an “experience”.
The story, if it can be called that, centers around an impending train crash. The protagonist is in a subway train, and has exactly twenty minutes to, well, do stuff. You see, the ending is inevitable, you can’t win this game, so it’s essentially an interactive movie. You don’t influence the story, which is why I prefer to call it an experience.
I know that this may sound boring and perhaps even pointless, but nothing could be further from the (admittedly subjective) truth. The limited amount of time you have in which to do all in your power to avert the catastrophe gives you a rushed feeling throughout, forcing errors. It’s a clever way of injecting adrenaline into a game that does not actually feature any inherent action apart from a few scripted events.
These scripted events do add a lot to the whole experience, raising questions that are left unanswered. Strange occurrences in this mysterious dystopian world will make you wonder just where you are. Is it a real train? Is this the future? The afterlife? A dream? Why is all this happening? Why am I all alone here? If you don’t like open-ended stories, this is not for you. But if you do, you’re in for a real treat.
Now, the game is not without its flaws, but in my opinion those are purely superficial. For instance, it might have been better off with WASD controls to increase immersion, but perhaps that’s just me. As far as graphics are concerned, the game is definitely on the dark side (not of the Force), and I had to turn up the brightness to be able to see, as well as switch off post-processing to make the game playable (I expect this wouldn’t be a problem on more modern computers).
Furthermore, sometimes the game sends you on a bit of a pixel hunt, especially since you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking for at times. This is, however, quite logical when you take the story into account, and it does encourage you to play it again if at first you don’t succeed in getting to the predetermined ending before time runs out. Some of the puzzles (one in particular) are quite difficult to figure out, and even now I suspect the game has its own system of logic that I haven’t been able to crack, but again, this fits in beautifully with the setting.
All things considered, Process is short, but very potent. It’s likely to linger in your head long after you play it, as you try to figure out just what the hell that was all about; and I mean that in the best possible way. Since it’s free and only takes a small amount of your time, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t play it, especially if you enjoy games like Dear Esther and The Stanley Parable.
Jan’s Rating: 4+ of 5 starks
The “+” is a reward for daring to do something new: Process shows that profound stories can be told interactively, without adding unnecessary bells and whistles.
You can download Process for free here:
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