Over the last few month's I've cycled through many games. Almost all of them range from "meh, okay" to "playing this one because it's cathartic and I have a baby on the way." In the first group, it's games like Assassins Creed's latest (the one in London, I've already forgotten the name) and No Man's Sky.. Likewise, in the "cathartic" category is / was FIFA 16 (seriously) and Fallout 4 (and I'll most certainly get back to that one).
Yet, yesterday there was this other game. Finally. It's called, simply enough, Virgina by Variable State. It popped up on my radar just the other day and was marked as an immediate buy based on the location of rural-ish Virginia (my home state) alone.
If that wasn't enough, it takes place in 1992 (I was a teen) and draws its influences from TV shows of that time. Which may seem a little derivative, thinking on it now. Or maybe "watered down" is a better way to put it. Sort of like the recent "Stranger Things," it's a show about shows during a particular time period. Two steps away from what was actually reality. What we get from "Virginia" is arguably three, or even four, steps away from that reality. It's a video game about shows that had a particular mood about a time and place.
This distance sort of works for the game, however. It's television-show-like-edits and propensity to jump cut back and forth in time pluse reality. It's beautifully constructed if you allow your mind to go there. But, like I said, I grew up in a place / time this game exists in.
Important to say that milage may vary by a great degree, but this is exactly how things in the gaming world should actually be. So much of gaming right now is centered around trying to make the perfect game for everyone. This sort of thinking sends me back to Fallout 4. It's a gamers game. A game, Game. Open world, decision making, inventory management, etc.. hell, you can even choose where you shoot an enemy. Even the setting and place are agreeable with the gaming world. That said, even it was met with seemingly loud criticism at first. So much that I had convinced myself that I wasn't playing a very good game.
Returning to Fallout 4 after putting it down for nearly half a year has me singing a different tune, though. It's a great goddamn game. I lose myself in it. Like, proper lose. It's what I thought No Man's Sky was going to give me but didn't. Man, I so much wanted to melt into No Man's Sky. It's just not there.
Alright, here's my rating on Virginia
It's great for a specific person from a specific place and a specific time. I love trying to piece it together. I also love that nobody really puts it together online. That's the way it should be!
OBJECTIVE : 10
You keep going forward. At points, you just march on because you think it's dragging. Other times you find yourself thinking back to that time and realising it was important. I think that's great.
IN-GAME ART / DESIGN : 3
Gah, right? We were doing so well. I think the design is well done but the art got me nowhere. The protagonist's hands. Her hands! It's fine, but I don't think it was on purpose, which isn't fine. It was distracting enough to be bad. Artists needed some figure drawing classes. This is coming from someone with a B.A. in fine art. It worked in that I could tell whose hands I was looking at (which is very important in this game) but fell apart otherwise.
AUDIO AND SOUND : 10
Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. This game is a silent film in regards to dialog. We have only sound effects and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which ties this otherwise otherworldly game to an earthy reality.
GAMEPLAY : 0
There's little to no gameplay. That's not something that should keep you from this... game? This score is either a 0 or 10. I think that's why it's confusing game writers.
EMOTIONAL IMPACT : 10
It works by the end. I'm writing about it.
LONGEVITY : 7
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE : 10
I can see some of the editing tools here being used in the future. It would be a great thing, in fact, for linear games.
X-FACTOR : 10
It has it. In spades. Mostly because it's rooted to a specific time and place.
PROMOTIONAL ART AND DESIGN : 7
It's limited, as far as I can tell. But it is well done.