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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some opening spoilers and extensive speculation for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Butch:

Ok, played! Huzzah!

Got to where it says “Jeremy,” then to a bus stop thing where I saw a scene. Not much, but some.

So I don’t know quite what to make of it yet. It certainly has a Gone Home vibe, though, and I HOPE I’m right about this, less to interact with. I hope. I’m worried I’m missing things, but that’s innate to these games, yes?

I’m not sure who Jeremy is.

I must say, I’m kind of surprised by the vibe. I expected the walking around moody thing, but, from the title and the logo, I wasn’t expecting something so apocalyptic. Barriers and emergencies and all. I knew it was after the rapture, but I was expecting an end of the world where certain people walked into the heavenly light, not one with barriers and sirens and people screaming in phone calls and instructions and load screens that would have fit fine in Fallout. Not that I’m complaining. Something jarring forces you to come at it with a more open mind and fewer preconceptions, which I figure will be useful in this game.

Feminina:

Huzzah!

We can talk about things! A few things, anyway.

I played some too. And yeah, WAY less to interact with than Gone Home. I mean, you can walk around, you can look at stuff, you can open (some) doors and gates, you can listen to radios, you can listen to memories(? — maybe recordings?) from the swirly light. That’s pretty much it. In terms of what you can actually do, anyway.

Not a coffee cup or a flaming arrow to be seen! It’s certainly a change of pace from the last thing I played.

I’m also a little worried about missing things, and I think not entirely without cause…having played about three hours, I think it’s got a basic, linear structure with a lot of wandering side areas, and it’s possible to wander off into the side things and miss part of the main story. Or if not miss it, at least skip ahead and have to come back to it, which I did.

So here’s the thing I think I’ve figured out, that you may want to know: the glowing light that kind of zooms around is (as you might think!) leading you along the main story, to specific key light-memory moments, so you want to keep an eye on where it goes and make sure you get there eventually.

At the same time, there are places it doesn’t go, houses along the way that it doesn’t go into and so forth, and there may be information in those places too, and localized, non-moving light-memories to listen to…so you want to explore OFF the path that the light is taking, but be sure to eventually go where the light is going. And don’t go too far away from where it’s going, although it can be hard to tell how far is “too far.”

It seems like the game is divided into several different sections focused on different people, and if you finish one it will lead into the next in an obvious way (more obvious than just wandering along down the road and having a different name show up). In my case, at one point I wandered too far off the main path, I guess, and a different name showed up, and I was a bit confused. If that happens to you, I would advise going back and trying to finish up with the Jeremy section before continuing. I just kept going and eventually figured out that there seem to be endpoints to the sections, so I went back to finish Jeremy’s, and it was fine, I don’t think it messed anything up really, but structurally I think it feels more sensible to finish each step before moving on.

Although they have to have realized that people WOULD sometimes wander off, and if they allow you to meander between sections so easily it must mean that it’s not critical to do them in any particular order…

Anyway, you’ll see what I mean as you go along, but my advice would be to get to the end of the Jeremy section before following up on the next one.

The only other thing we can really talk about at this stage is…how ABOUT that “Jeremy” written at the bottom of the screen?

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, knowing that there are different parts focused on different people (which come to think of it is a spoiler–sorry), I’m not sure how ELSE they could have indicated that this is the part focused on Jeremy (whoever he is), but the game seems to take such pains to be immersive in other ways that the written text felt oddly jarring to me.

I mean, SUCH minimal controls, and they stop highlighting the controls for you almost immediately (you don’t see a hint-y ‘X’ on the screen when you get close to a door, you just have to know that when you get to a door you hit X and if it’s not locked it will open)–no map screens, no scrolling help text, it’s all so carefully designed to present the illusion that YOU are here on this scene, wandering around, seeing only what’s visible and knowing only what you can piece together…and then in midair this name, Jeremy.

Like…do I the character see the name scroll across my field of vision? Probably not. So it’s for me the player, but by addressing me you’ve just broken this beautiful illusion of the seamless connection between player and character/story.

Enh. It’s a small thing, and as I said I don’t know how else they could really have done it (had someone shouting “Jeremy!!!!!” in the distance as the light starts to zoom off?) but I did notice it.

That aside…I’m enjoying this. It’s got a fairly subtle creepiness to it that is building nicely. I have no idea how it’s all going to hang together (well, I’ve got a working theory at the moment, but we’ll see how close it comes to the actual story). The game play–and we could of course debate about whether it’s even a game/even playing, but we did that already with Gone Home–is very low key, but effective. I’m getting around, looking at things, noting things that may or may not be clues (and if so, clues to what?): my interest is held.

PLAY SOME MORE WE MUST TALK MORE.

Although, yes, we can talk about the title and the logo! I agree…they really don’t sum up the mood of the thing, do they? The title sounds rather cheerful, almost funny, and the logo is a touching/stylized mother and child image (signage from the airport of the afterlife? Raptured mothers and children to Gate C?).

Also, the intro screen, with all the stuff about how to handle an Event. What Event? And who produced this bureaucratic-feeling informative material about it? Did the NHS have advance warning of the Rapture?

Is it actually the Rapture at all? If not (I’m honestly leaning towards not, but see what you think as you go), why this title? Who’s responsible for promoting it as the Rapture if it isn’t that?

Not to mention the obvious questions: Who am I, and what am I doing here?

I’M SO CONFUSED. MUST PLAY MORE.

Butch:

Hey man, I’m trying.

We hope there’s no more interaction. See, I got the X there on the first door, and then an X on the radio, but no X on the computer, so now I’m all “THERE’S NOT ALWAYS AN X!” and I trucked along and decided, later on, to see if I could open a gate, and I couldn’t, but it made a NOISE without the X! So I’m tempted just to spam X at everything. I HATE MISSING STUFF!

Fireball: got it. There’s also (you’ll love this) SOUND guiding you. I played with headphones, and used the sound to hone in on a couple of phones. It’s all stereo, gets louder, etc.

Does it tell you “Ok, Jeremy’s done?” I still don’t know who Jeremy even is.

And how ABOUT that text onscreen? Hmm. True, it does seem odd. Even the cryptic X is so small it’s weird. I guess I didn’t mind because I was so happy to get a clue as to what the hell was going on. I’ll see how I feel when I get a second name….

True, it would be hard to convey the ‘Jeremy-ness’ without text. I admit, I DID hit every button I had looking for a map. There is none. But I’m coming back to sound: through most of it, the sound is very realistic. Footfalls, wind rustling, phones, etc., but there is a musical flourish at certain points. The first light vision, the Jeremy sign, etc. It’s almost like chapter headings. They may be saying “Yes, this is an immersive story, but it is still a story.”

Now whether we like that is another question…..

My interest is also held. Though I do wish sprint was more sprinty. I can’t tell the difference. Indeed, I was worried my R2 was busted.

As for the logo, wait, you mean the icon on the desktop there? The two people holding hands? I didn’t necessarily take “mother/kid” from that. People who cared about each other, sure, but specifically mother/kid?

But yes, the title is cheerful, funny, but also, potentially, joyous. We’re liberal arts, coastal elites with no moral compasses, so we can look at “The Rapture” the way we do, but there’s a lot of folks out there who are genuinely looking forward to the rapture. Hell, when I was in high school, some church or other “figured out” when Jesus was coming to the day. They put up posters all over town telling us that Jesus was a’comin’! (Indeed, some posters still survive. They were decals. Why do you put up posters announcing the end of the world that will survive 25 years and counting after when you think the world will end? I digress.) There was a kid at my school who believed it, like BELIEVED it, and MAN was he ready for Jesus! He was counting the days! He even referred to it as “Rapture Day.” For real. So, for many, the idea of everybody going to the rapture is something they have circled on their calendars.

And when you look at it like that, all the more jarring with the barriers and all that.

Well, isn’t there that series of Christian books called “Left Behind” or some nonsense that basically deals with the immoral savages that Jesus doesn’t take and how everything goes promptly to shit once the “good” people leave? It is rather apocalyptic. So maybe it is. Maybe we’re left behind. Or not.

(Frankly, a world where the Jesus nuts go the hell off somewhere, leaving me behind, sounds ok right around now.)

But yeah, it is rather vague. I thought, with the opening there, that they were pulling the same trick as Gone Home, starting with the PC’s voice over, and I was going to be Dr. Catherine Collins, but I’m pretty certain I’m not, so who?

Feminina:

Huh. In my memory the logo has a figure in a dress and a smaller figure, holding hands, which I read as mother and child when I thought of it, but I could be confusing it with the crosswalk symbol? Is it not actually a ‘female’ (i.e., generic figure in skirt) and smaller figure outline?

I may be overlaying my own issues here. In which case, we’d better discuss what that says about me…possibly that I’m still stewing over our discussion of how we don’t want to see children in danger in games?

It’s true, our immoral take on the Rapture is a lot different from that of someone who actually believes in and even looks forward to such an event. We could certainly read what we’re experiencing as an apparently peaceful* but still, ultimately, horrific post-apocalyptic scene, as we’re one of the sinful losers who didn’t get Raptured (Left Behind, as you said, is very popular). Interesting that the setting is so very English, while the scientist Kate who is clearly important to the story is American…I’m sure they have Rapture believers in the UK, but we–at least I–tend to think of that brand of religious fervor as being an American specialty.

*On that, I kind of like how the apparent peacefulness is overlaid on the obvious aftermath of chaos and urgency, contributing to the eerie mood of the scene: everything is so calm and beautiful right now, and yet clearly there was a lot of fear a short time ago.

I have noticed that about the sound! Even I noticed! You can home in on things by turning towards or away from them. There’s also some interesting use of music…as you said, occasional flourishes, but also lengthy musical interludes in certain places. As you said, this definitely breaks the illusion of being totally immersed in a real scene, like the use of the names on the screen, and like the names, I noticed it and wondered, although I almost felt at certain points that maybe it WAS meant to be actually playing in the background, at least in the character’s own head? Maybe I as the character am meant to be experiencing this musical interlude? I don’t know! I don’t know what’s going on!

Where am I? What’s happening?

And then there are the times when it’s very quiet, just footsteps (though your steps are very soft and sometimes I don’t even hear them), or natural sounds like bird and flies. There’s a clue there! I just don’t know what it means.

Butch:

I’ll check the logo when I next turn the thing on. Perhaps I have been distracted by the sheer intensity of the colors.

Yeah, I noticed that we, once again, have an accent disconnect, but I think here it’s intentional. She’s already mentioned stuff about “being here” and “I joined you” or something, so I get the sense this isn’t just weird Jacob/Sofia casting.

One of the visions even says “There were soldiers! And barriers! HERE! In Stropshire!” like it’s the last place on earth that would be…well..the last place on earth. Apocalypses happen in big important places, not Stropshire. Or, at least, they happen in places with a lot of Christian dudes.

Reminds me of District 9, the South African movie about aliens. There’s a news report in that that rather cheekily digs at Western movies: “Imagine the world’s shock when aliens finally arrived, they did not come to New York, or Washington, or London, or Paris, but Johannesburg.”

There was a lot of fear here, and, we get the sense it happened fast. We don’t see all the stuff we’ve come to associate with end of the world games: trash, weeds, mugs everywhere, but we do, occasionally, see a car with an open door, abandoned. There’s JUST enough end of the world cliche things to be creepy, and make us wonder.

Now that I know you noticed sound, even I don’t know what’s happening.

How did you do that without headphones on an old TV?

Are we committed to the idea that, like, say, The Witness, that this is a game where everything is a clue? Cuz my brain is already full from that.

Good thing I downloaded Day of the Tentacle.

Feminina:

OK, no, when I Googled the title it looks like it’s two silhouettes, the smaller one in a dress, but the smaller one is not that much smaller than the larger…so it’s much more likely to represent a man and a woman holding hands than a mother and child. Unless it’s a mother with an adult child who’s taller than her, but this is rarely the first thing that comes to mind when we see silhouettes of two people holding hands.

Weird. I guess my brain WAS all full of ‘children’ thoughts from yesterday. Or because I kept listening with half an ear for the baby to wake up while I played.

Never mind that particular commentary, then! Um…the rest of what I said is probably still relevant. Although who knows. How can I even trust my brain anymore?

Not that I ever did. Memory is fundamentally unreliable. Eyewitnesses are the worst evidence. Etc.

I do like the disconnect between the calm, bucolic setting (a small English village! what could be more homey?) and the fact that apparently the Rapturepocalypse started here.

“Look, we just don’t DO things like that.”

Butch:

Ah, ok. That’s how I read the logo.

I never trusted your brain.

We don’t expect it, and yet I totally expect to stumble upon a reason why the Event was here. Already there is trouble in paradise. There’s a flyer in the bus stop I stopped in for a meeting opposing the construction of a seventh tower at the observatory, which does seem oddly out of place. It looms. I think we’ll get there eventually. Probably near the end. There will be secrets within.

Feminina:

Don’t trust brains. It’s just common sense.

There’s always trouble in paradise. And definitely something going on with the observatory. Those SCIENTISTS, you know. Observing. Making trouble. Implications of science ‘playing god’? Thinking it can understand the will of god? Tempting fate through hubris–unwisely attracting the attention of a god?

There’s also an interesting potential question about whether this observatory-related trouble, if/when it turns out there’s trouble, is the fault of the American outsider, Kate, or the hometown hero, Stephen. (Interesting bit of conversation between the two of them when she jokes about how they’re planning to put up a statue of him, and he says something like “that’s not far wrong.” Idolatry, then?)

Was the serpent in this Eden a foreign troublemaker, or an internal traitor? Is evil something we must guard against with external barriers, or with pure thoughts?

Butch:

So very many things.

Which is cool!

Though I’m gonna get away from theme questions and ask a gameplay one: What’s with having to tilt the controller to activate lights? I don’t get why that mechanic is in there.

Feminina:

Yeah, that’s kind of weird. It gets a little more interesting later because some of the lights get harder to activate…you have to kind of move around and tilt back and forth to get just the right angle, so it’s sort of like tuning in on it.

Maybe they just wanted to throw in a tiny bit of ‘action’? I dunno.

The ‘tuning in’ idea is a bit like ‘homing in’ and locating radios by where they sound loudest, so maybe they just liked this idea of you having to pay attention and focus on some aspect of the environment.

Oh, and also I second your comment from many messages ago about ‘speed.’ You really cannot go fast at all, and I too wondered if maybe my controller was glitching or I was pressing the wrong button by mistake. You can basically move quite slowly, or fairly slowly. Take your pick!

Butch:

Crap. I’ve already had a tough time homing in. Ah, well.

So let me get this straight: The ONE TIME you find the sprint button, and it doesn’t make you sprint.

Feminina:

I know. The irony!

I only found it because I was clicking around to see if there was a map or something. There must be some documentation or background material here somewhere!

Nope. I kind of appreciate its simplicity, although I could stand to sprint a little more. I like how it says “hold to develop speed.” Like, you won’t go fast right away, but keep holding it and sooner or later you’ll get speed!

Not yet: not what I’d call SPEED. Oh well.

Butch:

Dude, I saw that and held it a long time.

Lies. Lies, I say.

Feminina:

I just walk around holding it constantly. I think it’s a tiny bit faster than when I’m not holding it? But this could just be my hopeful imagination.

It would be kind of interesting if this is the game intentionally playing with us in some way. “It’s like those dreams where you try to hurry but you can’t! So maybe this is all a dream too!”

Doubt everything. Our perceptions cannot be trusted.

Which works very nicely with my failure to accurately remember the logo. I did that on purpose to make a point!

And now that I think of it, “this is all a dream too!” is not an entirely implausible explanation given a few of the things I’ve seen. We’ll come back to this.

Butch:

Yeah man. Loading Rapture now. Certainly a man and woman holding hands.

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