Deprecated (2015 game) review…

With robots, “malfunction” isn’t an euphemism… After the break…

DEPRECATED (2015 game) review…

In the movie “Looper,” a hapless hitman who runs afoul of his enemies learns all too late that, when your enemies have the ability of time travel, you can never escape from their punishment. In a particularly gruesome and effective scene, the hitman has his limbs disappear one by one, right before his very eyes, as his enemies torture his younger self. If they cut off a body part from the younger self, the older self will suffer the same fate. The older self races to escape but, it’s no use and the older self’s fate is quickly and definitively sealed.

In the 2015 computer game, “Deprecated,” you play as a robot similarly on the run from equally robotic security guards. You have failed an equipment check and are now considered faulty and need replacement and replacement, for a robot, means only one thing: Death. Therefore, you go on the run, in search of a repair room so that you may repair or replace your faulty parts and continue your function inside of a massive factory.

You have three faulty parts: A laser beam for shooting things, a grappling hook and a button-pushing finger. Your visual display also begins to malfunction as well (no, it’s not your monitor) towards the very end. Throughout the game, those parts eventually decay until the point of complete and total failure. As more parts degrade and malfunction, you must find new and innovative ways to overcome what used to be seemingly easy obstacles. And, remember, the security guards are after you…

“Deprecated” is a 2015 computer game made by a group of students, led by Samuel Boullier & Nathan Lemaire. It is in the first-person perspective and much in the mold of the “first-person puzzle” genre, made famous by the “Portal” franchise. It is a fairly hefty download at 400+ megs but, with modern computer games, a lot of that 400+ megs is devoted towards the typically large amount of space that razzle-dazzle graphics and sound occupy. The game, itself, is rather small and I’d dare say that only a complete novice would have difficulty finishing the entire game from start to finish in less than an hour.

The game is a series of puzzles, cleverly disguised to blend into the layout of a large, all-encompassing factory. Unlike the game “Portal 1” that had very strict boundaries (each puzzle separated by an elevator and going so far as to label the puzzles numerically inside of the game world), the puzzles in “Deprecated” are arrived at naturally, as though one was actually running through a factory.

There is no save and load feature but, if you stay within the game itself, there is a “soft checkpoint” system where you instantly get to re-try the puzzle that you failed at earlier. While I am old-fashioned and prefer a manual save game system, the soft checkpoint system is adequate for the needs of the game. Unfortunately, once you end the game, there is no going back – Starting a new game means that you will have to start with no checkpoints. Not exactly a good way to promote re-playability.

The game itself has a nice presentation. The graphics and sound are perfectly adequate for the game. There is “body awareness” in the game, meaning that you can look down at your feet and torso, should you chose to do so. There is a nice contrast between the browns and blacks of the gritty “factory rooms” and the sterile whites and light greys of the “control rooms.” The factory robots, with their television monitor heads displaying a happy face might have been a bit much towards the comical end. The guard robots look menacing without appearing physically outright evil; They are, after all, only “doing their job” of attempting to dispose of a faulty robot as opposed to merely hunting down any old robot and assaulting them because the mood strikes them.

The game is linear to a fault. Don’t expect meandering passages that lead to dead ends or alternate ways around otherwise intimidating puzzles. There is a puzzle and there is a way to solve it. Encounter a puzzle, figure it out, and proceed to the next puzzle. Wash, rinse and repeat.

For it’s presentation, though, there are several questionable design decisions that take away from the game’s enjoyment.

Chief amongst these decisions is a rather depressing ending. You “die” just a few feet away from the repair room, the repair room’s doors slit open just enough for a bright white light to tantalizingly shine through. So, I just performed all of that work for nothing? Was I supposed to have performed something differently? You can’t restart that final, individual section of the game so I will never know if dying just before reaching the room is inevitable or if there was some other method towards completing the game differently.

The game is also painfully short and there is no interaction with your fellow factory workers. I ran past a few of them at one point and all they did was… Nothing. Yup. Just another day on the job for them. For a game with as much atmosphere and set-up, you’d think that there might have been a scripted segment where a fellow factory worker helps you or even a security guard “looks the other way” for a moment. The computer game “Unreal” had NPCs quietly help the protagonist throughout the game and that game was released in the late 1990s.

While the game certainly has atmosphere, it could have had a whole lot more, certainly if the story telling would be confined to visuals. Why not walk through a room with piles of “dead” factory workers? Why not see a group of dysfunctional factory workers, not with smiley faces but with looks of concerns on their faces, being led to their inevitable demise?

The computer game “Portal” had one very effective storytelling moment in it: At one point, you return to a prior level after you’ve become more powerful than you previously were the first time that you encountered that level. As a result, that moment gave you a sense of real accomplishment and a feeling of progress as you easily master a level that originally gave you so much trouble. There is no equivalent moment in this game. Imagine if you did repair yourself and, once repaired (even temporarily), could now breeze through a puzzle that similarly gave you a lot of grief earlier because you didn’t have the grappling hook or the finger-pushing button.

Finally, the game ends on a rather dour note. I’m not sure if there is a “happy” ending or not but I’m guessing that there isn’t. Depressing endings may be great for art cinema and other media but, after spending an hour or more on a game, you would think that a happier (and more satisfying) ending would be made. Why go through all of that effort just to ultimately fail? It makes no sense. Yes, you are a malfunctioning robot but you have also made a “promise” to your player that, should you persevere through the puzzles of the game, you will “succeed.” This is not the case in this game and, after all of the work that you have gone through, to be rewarded with a brief cinematic showing that you have “failed” is really unrewarding. It makes you feel as though you have just wasted an hour.

So, in conclusion, the concept and initial execution of the game was nice. The graphics and presentation of the game were also nice. Yet it’s painfully short play length (especially given it’s size), followed by some questionable artistic decisions (never mind the lack of replayability) forces me to recommend this game to only the hardest core of first-person puzzle enthusiasts.

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