Creepy Double Game Worlds
Double is a new psychological horror game and the first project from two-person Indie developers Tomato Fantasy Games.
In a world where whole teams of developers can create games that drive me nearly insane with frustration and poor design, it’s always amazing to see small companies put the time and effort in to create something decent.
Double is set during the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s. Carlos, the main character and an ex-captain, is now living in a mental hospital, suffering from PTSD. The gameplay swaps between Carlos’ nightmares of the war, where the game becomes a side-scrolling shooter and Carlos’ real world in the hospital, which is based more in dialogue.
I’d firstly like to commend the game for dealing both with a real war and a real-world horror. Zombie apocalypse games and witchy spirit hunting games are all well and good, but we live in a world where real wars have and do happen. There are also real horrors in the mind and real fears that are far more terrifying that fake threats such as ghosts or fantasy beasts. It’s much more powerful to make a horror game based on things that could really happen to you.
Before I continue, I’d like to clarify that this is based on a demo of Double, rather than a full-length version of the game.
The World of War
I’ve said before that shooters have never really been my game of choice. Often, I find that they don’t offer much in terms of story and are just running around shooting things. That’s great if you like running around shooting things. But I, being the fussy thing that I am, demand more from a game.
Double really does try to give you more than a basic shooter during the dream sequences. It’s constantly made clear that this is a flashback or a vision in a deluded mind. With its creepy music and strange text, giving you a little window into Carlos’ mind. Here you fight off attacking soldiers and “glitches” grey static that comes through your mind, which you have to avoid.
The combat did feel a little turn-based. When you encounter a soldier you basically have to duck behind something until they stand up, then you can shoot them. Sometimes there is more than one soldier and you have to make sure you stand up in time to shoot one, but duck before the other shoots you. I worry it wouldn’t be fast paced enough for die-hard shooter fans.
What I did like was the side-scrolling, arcade-like-ness of it. It gave Double a very classic feel to it and it feels like the right choice for a deluded mind, returning to the same places over and over again. You can get hit by an enemy bullet or a glitch up to three times before you are reset to the last save point. But after every hit, the screen will become grainy, making it harder to see. I quite like this, as it reflects the madness of the main character and how nothing in this world can hurt him anymore – it only seems like it can.
The Horrors of Reality
Carlos’ reality is a very different game than his dream world. Living in his reality is, in some ways, more difficult than playing in the revolution. The answers that Carlos gives will determine how others see his mental health. With Carlos’s mental health on the line, I felt a lot more pressure. Every choice you make determines how the psychotherapist.
In the hospital, you’ll be asked to observe your surroundings and will have to answer questions to a psychotherapist. Everything within the game world means something and everything is there for a reason. I like this about the game, as it puts the player’s success into logical thinking. It also shows a lot of attention to detail.
Having said that, it did feel at times like it was more of a memory game. The psychotherapist asks you for details from your dreams, details you might have missed because you were trying to defend yourself. This wasn’t so difficult in the first stages of the game in the Demo version. But it’ll be interesting to see how specific and detailed things get in the full-length version of the game.
The inexperience of Fantasy Tomato does show. The dialogue from the soldiers can get very repetitive very fast, which takes away from the impact of their words. Since there is no voice acting in the game, more effort could have perhaps been put into writing for these characters. The controls of the game are fairly easy to get hold of, mostly revolving around the left mouse button. But making both “teleport” and “focus” controlled by the “Q” key seems pointless to me since the keyboard has so many others to choose from. While I do very much like the artwork, it being very impressive for a small company, it did feel a little cartoony at times, especially during the more serious scenes. Then again, it is a game dealing with very serious issues and a real conflict. Perhaps the colourful style of it stops things from getting “too real.”
Double does make up for its downfalls for being something unique. The music and the dialogue from the main characters create this very creepy atmosphere, along with its realistic subject manner. It’s very immersive and the two styles of gameplay are both different enough to keep them interesting, but still relate to the same story. There are definitely some screws that need to be tightened before the game’s full release, as listed above. But Double also shows a lot of potential and it’ll be interesting to see what changes in the full-length version of the game.