Review of Outcry by Phantomery Interactive

Matt Barton's picture

I recently completed my advance copy of Phantomery Interactive's Outcry:The Dawn, a 2008 game now being published by Mamba Games under their Odyssia label. Outcry is a great game in the style of Myst, with fun puzzles, a rich story, and creepy, surreal atmosphere.

OutcryOutcryThe story is complex enough that even after finishing the game you may not be quite sure what happened. At least, that's how I ended the game--though this isn't a criticism; indeed, the mysterious and unexplained aspects of the storyline make it even more intriguing to play. Basically, though, we have here a sort of H.P. Lovecraft take on Jules Verne. The protagonist travels to another dimension, which is apparently built of fragments of his own rationality. The game is psychological to the point of having players read snippets of Freud and Yung (as well as experiment with mind-altering chemicals).

Moving Architecture: These fragments slowly rotate around the setting.Moving Architecture: These fragments slowly rotate around the setting.To say the game's atmosphere is unworldly is an underestimate. Much like Myst, you'll find yourself in richly detailed environments, though here mostly of the Jules Verne-era technology and factory sort (I'm wondering if "steam punk" might apply here). Most of the game world looks ancient and dilapidated, reminded me strongly of the Rhem series with its weathered machinery and rusty pipes everywhere. However, whereas Rhem is almost exclusively puzzle-based, Outcry takes the opposite approach, with much fewer puzzles and much more emphasis on backstory. Indeed, you will spend lots of time reading texts (or having them read to you by the game's skillful voice actor). We learn about the main character by collecting pages of his diary, notes, books, and eventually "flashbacks" of formative events in his childhood. It's all superbly done and quite effective.

Although there aren't many puzzles in the game, they are well executed and localized. What I mean by "localized" is that everything you need to solve the puzzles is close by, and the game worlds are discrete. This eliminates the tedious backtracking and "what am I supposed to be doing?" frustration that plagues so many adventure games. Instead, here you'll come across a machine, find clues to its operation elsewhere, and eventually sit down to work out the right settings to make it work. These range from inventory-based puzzles (i.e., find some parts to assemble a key), but include logic and sound puzzles. The sound puzzle is probably the most difficult and involves matching up tones. I don't see how a deaf or even a tone-deaf person could complete this game, but it probably won't stump other people.

My favorite aspects of the game were the ambiance. There's just a certain feeling you get while playing this game that really draws you in. It could be the eerie music, the ghostlike environments, or the pseudo-scientific rambling of the protagonist. Ancient archaeology, mind-altering chemicals (you even get to manufacture some!), Jules Verne-era technology, psychoanalysis...There's enough intellectual depth here to fill a college course (or two!).

Air Guitars: This section leads to a sound puzzle in the sky.Air Guitars: This section leads to a sound puzzle in the sky.On a final note, the developers were considerate enough to give you plenty of options for controlling the interface. I was getting tired of the camera blurring transitions between rooms; much to my delight, I found an option to turn them off (and many other settings). I really appreciate it when a developer takes the time to code in such features. My wife was bothered by the film-grain like effect that ran throughout the game; unfortunately, I could find no way to turn this off (though it didn't bother me at all).

In any case, Outcry: The Dawn is definitely a game you'll want to check out if you're into games like Myst and Rhem. It's a bit short, but that might be a good thing if you want a game you can complete in a weekend. I was very pleased with this game and will definitely keep an eye out for future releases from Phantomery.