23/04/2018

☆ Review: Beckett - "An acid trip into a Burroughs-esque dystopia" ☆ #IndieGame @TheSecretExp

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Game Title: Beckett
Platform Reviewed: PC (Steam)
Rating: Ice Cool
There’s no sugar-coating this, Beckett is a tough ride for all the right reasons.
Scottish developers The Secret Experiment pull no punches as they envelop you in the twisted, broken world of Beckett. 
As I played through I winced, felt queasy, and even occasionally found it overwhelming, but I was never bored.


Beckett is no hero. An older man seemingly devoid of emotion, he spends his days killing time and mirthlessly existing in his squalid apartment, occasionally getting calls from a shadowy government department asking him to complete unpleasant jobs in which the only pin-prick of hope lying in the knowledge that they’ll stop asking him, soon. 
We join Beckett as he gets his latest and possibly last job, tracking down a young man called Peregrine Starlight, who has recently gone missing. Leaving the confines of his apartment, he wanders the hell-scape of a broken city in search of the boy as his own memories tear at him from within.
The game play in Beckett is relatively minimal with it being almost more of an abstract interactive novel than a traditional game. Presented in a top-down perspective, Beckett is represented by a tired, grey face and his movements are literally portrayed as a spot moving across the rooms and areas in the game. The screen transitions are mechanical and clunky, as if we are viewing events through an ancient microfiche. There are sections where some brief mini-games take place but mostly it’s clicking through the story and hotspots in order to move the narrative along, which works well here because the focus is more of an experience than a challenge.
The game is drained of most colour and conversations are text with the speech of the talker replaced with sounds as opposed to voices. Beckett coughs his way through sentences whilst Peregrine’s mother, a faded star ‘speaks’ with puckered kisses, a construction worker clangs and drills their way through dialogue etc. As Beckett follows clues, a scratchy sound track marks out his path and scenes are broken up by dream-like imagery, looped sounds and often distressing animations of operations or extreme close-ups of insects and the like pepper the game, it is relentless and doesn’t shy away from human darkness and loss.

In contrast to the unpleasant (by choice) images and sounds, Beckett is himself lost in the past. His beloved and lost Amy always swirling in his mind and so he reacts by cutting off access to his emotions, describing his thoughts on the case and approaching conversations in a detached, methodical way to lock away the psychic pain that threatens to overwhelm him.
If you are a fan of the works of Samuel Beckett, William S Burroughs or Charles Bukowski, chances are that you’ll appreciate the tone of this game with its tortured characters, corrupt self-serving government and the general air of hopelessness as humanity careens towards oblivion. Although the game does move forward in a relatively straightforward story (‘find the boy’), the presentation, approach and mood reminded me of Naked Lunch in that it feels like a collection of sketches on a larger canvas and also Bukowski’s Pulp in that the case itself is secondary to the events that lead up to it.
Summary
I thoroughly enjoyed Beckett, in the beginning I wondered if the tone would work but although oppressive, it’s clear that The Secret Experiment fully committed themselves to the world Beckett inhabits and I found that the game stayed with me long after the credits rolled. This really isn’t a game for everyone and is best viewed as an interactive piece as opposed to a traditional game of any sort. There were some sections that were so full-on that I found myself blackly laughing at them including a description of a hospital waiting room and a certain caged bird on a desk. If you fancy a trip to the darker side and enjoy fragmented tales told darkly, Beckett is for you, if not…you may want to watch a trailer or two to see what you’re getting yourself into.

Right, I’m off to hug the ones I love.

❄️ RATING: ICE COOL ❄️
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

 Review By Britt