It’s not really a spoiler. It was kind of obvious.
ELYSIUM CITY, 2013
“Elysium City” is the brainchild of the artist Sebestian first announced January 2012 and finally realized in a working demo only this last August.
Though built in RPG Maker and borrowing the concepts of interdimensional exploration and equipable effects, it is not strictly a Yume Nikki fangame. Instead, you follow the young mechanic Anne (mech-anne-ic?), who has recently worked out the kinks on a machine which will take her to another world, the titular and shockingly dystopian Elysium City. There, she can escape the tyranny of her parents as she embarks on a series of quests to find a new home and unravel the sinister mysteries of the decrepit town. The demo takes us through the first episode of her perhaps long and exciting story.
As a strict game, Elysium City does not function particularly well. Much of the story progression is based on locating each in an arduous series of characters scattered about the area to gather their two cents before stumbling on the next event. I was intrigued enough by the story, something of a suspenseful mishmash between Foster’s Home, Neil Gaiman, and Roald Dahl’s The Landlady, but I would rather experience it either as a written piece of fiction or with improved interactivity — branching dialogue choices, perhaps.
This is not to say I do not anxiously twiddle my thumbs in anticipation for the next installment. The creatures and mythos of Elysium City are intriguing and demand the justice of being expanded upon with future stories, or, even better, a tie-in comic!
“Debris” is a Japanese Yume Nikki fangame by Hedgehog which adheres pretty rigidly to the traditional mechanics and aesthetic. It certainly doesn’t want for content with 2 playable characters, 17 effects, 4 endings, and a multitude of hidden events. The soundtrack and graphics are both above par, but the most marvelous feat of Debris is that in spite of its marvelous feats I spent more time looking for interesting things than I did experiencing them.
As per the game’s vein of traditionalism, one encounters the expected throwbacks to the classics — the surreal monochrome creatures, the desert region, the kill-all-the-NPCs-to-reach-the-door room, the haunted school, the rave world, the chaser-infested labyrinth, the teleport maze; and padding these are a substantial number of transition maps, wide empty spaces with few distinctive landmarks, serving only to connect Point A to Point B.
About an hour in, I was worried I had downloaded a bootleg version, “Debris: The Experience,” devoted strictly to sightseeing, because it was that much of a haul to scavenge any effects. For many of the routes, you are at a roadblock if you didn’t happen to pick up the necessary effects beforehand, whether it’s because a path is guarded by enemies moving faster than your walking pace, or because locations on the way are complex wastelands which thrive on trial-and-error based wandering.
“Debris” is certainly not on my all-time low end of the list, and by no means is it a work of little effort, but the fact remains that it is simply not very fun to play. Unlike “LCDDEM,” a game that is also not very fun to play, the regions you explore are not at all enchanting or artistically motivating; for example, one of the Nexus doors leads to a large gray area comprised of roughly nothing, save a sparse collection of rectangular holes in the ground and a background track that goes boop wheedle-wheedle wheedle-wheedle whee. Another, which for its color scheme I affectionately refer to as Illini World, is a series of paths made up of rectangular smiling blue and orange faces fastened together like Lego blocks.
Do I want to be there? Not really. Do I wander these halls rapt with wonder? Not really. If I ever lucid-dreamed of such a place I would lucid-wake-myself-up and slap some cold water on my face, then go back to thinking about pretty boys. I would best avoid this game, unless you’re compensated with mints or $5.