Possession 1881

It all begins with a portrait of a small girl known only as Patient 13, with the ominous words underneath…

There was a little girl, who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good, she was very, very good.

And when she was bad, she was horrid…

Possession 1881 is a traditional point-and-click game set in the backdrop of the Victorian age of scientific discovery and the human thirst for knowledge which saw many practicing alchemy and various occult experiments. It was created by the indie developer End of the Line Studios and released on June 5. A review copy of the game was supplied by End of the Line Studios. As stated in my preview of the game last weekend, specific words like ‘art’ ‘puzzles’ ‘Victorian Age’ and ‘Occult’ had me sold on this pretty quickly.

Point-and-click games feature the distinct difference to other genres as they require a different mindset and approach than something like a platformer or shooter, while moving at a slower pace to allow the player to absorb the game’s story, setting and atmosphere. Where a game like Layers of Fear functioned in cyclical patterns as you roamed from room-to-room, in Possession 1881 you are confined to a specific room or area deciphering the cryptic clues left behind. The former focused on themes of obsession and insanity, while the latter offers a depiction of the lengths humans will go in the search for truth, such as alchemy or sorcery. Initially, I made comparisons to Bloober Team’s psychadelic horror game with its wonderfully eerie vibes, though Layers of Fear is more “sanity-depraved artist” to Possession 1881’s allusions to individuals like Aleister Crowley. The game’s story of forbidden knowledge and the occult also brings back the feelings of an unknown evil similar to those felt in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem; an all-time favorite of mine. Possession 1881 will appeal to anyone familiar with either H.P. Lovecraft or Mr. Crowley.

The game provides you with a torch and nothing else as you examine the area for clues and items to aid in your passage to the next area. The first thing to look for are lanterns and candles to allow yourself to search the area as your torch will briefly illuminate a small space around you, but lasting only a few moments. Each area consists of several puzzles you must solve before you can proceed, many of which prompted me to keep a pen nearby so I could write some of the clues down to work out the arrangement of certain objects or symbols to match with other items.

What was genuinely impressive about Possession 1881 was the puzzles; I really appreciated the feeling that an effort was spent in crafting riddles and puzzles requiring a different method of thinking than many of the games I’ve played recently. Many games features puzzles that many times will not be much more than quickly scanning the area for a dropped item or key, others being more of a mini-game than puzzle such as hacking computer terminals or picking locks. One level requires you to re-create a melody from a music box by striking the same notes on a xylophone. In another level, you will need to reference a nearby periodic table as you combine elements to create a corrosive compound…my teenage self would have never believed I would actually be using anything from the periodic table of elements in a video game. The story also culminates with you studying alchemical symbols and re-creating the broken summoning circle in the middle of the room, much to my amusement and surprise.

Another thing I really appreciated about the game was the way it presented the setting and storyline. You are thrown into a dark, eerie manor featuring some very nice lighting and ambient effects. Part of what made my trek through the manor so unsettling is the fact there’s no music but just the sound of rain hitting against the foggy windows and occasional thunderclap as a storm rages outside. There are no jump scares in the game, instead relying purely on the creepy aura of questionable scientific pursuits and occult practices; the silence is only broken by the echoes from your interactions with objects in empty space. The story gives details about a young girl known only as Patient 13, who must piece together the information left behind to determine what has happened.

What I appreciated about the story is the way you are following the trail of breadcrumbs as you progress throughout the ominous manor. You will come across notes that were hastily scribbled in a state of fear and panic as those working within the various departments pursue Patient 13, who has demonstrated overwhelming supernatural powers and has escaped from the room holding her. The game does a great job of creating a sense of foreboding as you discover the fate of the researchers and creates a haunting atmosphere completely free of the jump scares thrown into other games.

Admittedly, I don’t have much for experience with games of this genre as console gamers have historically had scant few choices in the way of point-and-click adventures and real-time-strategy games. I really enjoyed the experience provided by the game. My only criticisms of Possession 1881 are rather minor quibbles such as the occasional visual hiccup such as an item getting “stuck” in the object viewer after selecting a different item. I also would have appreciated an option to adjust the mouse sensitivity, though it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the game. The game took me roughly 4 hours, including an extended period of time where I was pretty well stumped, looking around for clues hinting at the way out of the parlor area.

Possession 1881 does achieve what it sets out to do in providing an eerie experience filled with intuitive puzzles and a sinister atmosphere with lovely visuals and impressive lighting without trying to steal cheap jump scares out of you. I found myself noting how satisfying it felt upon finally discovering the solution to the riddle preventing me from accessing the next area. For fans of traditional point-and-click puzzles or anyone looking to solve puzzles while even learning a thing or two about Roman history or alchemical symbols, it is currently available on Steam right here.

Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!

In Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! we get a pretty accurate summary of what to expect from the title of the game; an amorphous alien blob lands on Earth(from Space!) and begins to consume everything in front of it. While it may sound like a pretty simple premise, it works well within its b-movie setting and most importantly, is really fun to play. Mutant Blobs Attack! is a sequel to Drinkbox Studio’s Tales From Space: About a Blob and was initially released back in 2012, and more recently on the Nintendo Switch in May 2019. It is a platform/puzzler set to a 60’s sci-fi b-movie backdrop that made for a delightful game experience. I downloaded the game a few weeks ago while looking on the eShop on my Switch and thought it sounded fun to play. I had a great time playing Guacamelee(finally!) so I was willing to check out what else Drinkbox Studios had to offer. I began playing it several weeks ago as an indie title I could play in small, bite-size chunks to counter the endless hours hunting Korok seeds in Breath of the Wild.

Once you reach the last level, you’ve reached a large enough size to consume buildings and an entire city

As the title suggests, you control a small alien blob making your way through the 6 levels, with each containing four stages. The first level takes place on a college campus, before progressing through the nearby town, a detour to the moon, back to the Badlands, an Army base, and finally a large metropolis. The levels for the most part consist of standard side-scrolling where you navigate the levels while consuming anything smaller than yourself, slowly building in size until you can progress to the next section. This aspect of the Mutant Blobs Attack! is essentially Katamari Damacy as a side-scroller; there’s also numerous puzzles blocking your path that you must overcome by drawing yourself to or pushing away from corresponding objects, as a magnet would be attracted or repelled from another magnet. The “magnetic” objects are colored purple, usually pipes or spinning blades. For example, you press ZL to draw yourself towards an object and you can push yourself away from the same object by pressing ZR. In other levels you will be able to use your ability to propel yourself through the air using…gas(I think?) similar to how a jellyfish will move underwater. There is also several stages that will use a top-down camera as you roll yourself around using gyroscopic controls – like one of those old wooden maze toys where you try to roll the small metal ball to the end. Other puzzles will require you to your psionic ability to move and arrange beams and platforms around to provide access or block taking any damage from red laser beams that will result in your demise should you touch them. This is accomplished by using a standard controller or by utilizing a touch screen if you are playing on Switch or Playstation Vita. There is a message at the beginning of the game that states handheld mode is the recommended way to play the game. I played just about the entire game in handheld mode.

The gameplay and physics work really well, although at one point I was noticing that my movements seemed to be just a split second after I moved the joystick as if there was some screen lag, worse yet, there were a few instances of my character moving slightly BEFORE I had even moved the joystick. However, this seemed to be fixed upon attaching my other set of Joy-Cons to the Switch…only now I’m fearing I may be starting to see some of the infamous “Joy-Con drift” that has been a bit of a concern for Switch owners in the past few months. Nonetheless, the actual controls within the game work really well and the in-game physics seem spot-on.

Earth is doomed!!

The visuals and music in Mutant Blobs Attack! really add to the gameplay experience, the animation style is similar to that of Guacamelee, with the backgrounds and level design that ooze 60’s sci-fi b-movie vibes. I really enjoyed the music as well, an upbeat blend of reverb-drenched surf music sounding like it was recording in the 60’s. The game does a great job of conveying the sights and sounds, along with the goofy charm that seems to exist within Drinkbox games. The ending of the game was also enjoyable as the alien blob has grown such enormous size that it devours the Earth and then entire solar system, this is prompt the in-game achievement – Galaxicide.

Complaints I have for Mutant Blobs Attack! begin with the game’s length, you could easily finish the entire game in one sitting as the levels can be completed in anywhere from two to five minutes. The game does encourage you to go back to previous levels to best your previous score as well as find and rescue two of your companion blobs in each level, so the length isn’t a huge detriment to the game, particularly for the price. As stated earlier, the game is perfect to play when you just want to spend a small amount of time playing and don’t want to start up something you will not gain anything from by playing less than a couple hours. My other complaint is probably more to due with playing it on the Switch, some of the puzzles will require you to use the touch controls to move objects to obscure laser beams or to bridge gaps, but this can be tricky to do while having to press buttons and move the joystick in rather quick succession. You can play the game in docked mode, but this requires you to position yourself close enough to the object you need to move that it is more difficult this way. I imagine the smaller size of the Vita would make for the easiest way to complete these challenges.

The puzzles encourage you to use the touch screen to move the platforms, it’s a little trickier with a controller…

Minor complaints aside, Mutant Blobs Attack! is great fun and is certainly worthy of your time. The setting is interesting and the music adds to the 60’s vibe, I can wholeheartedly recommend this game. Drinkbox Studios has shown to be capable of producing unique indie titles that don’t seem to get the attention they deserve. I will definitely be playing Guacamelee 2 in the near future too!

That’s it for now, I’ve been enjoying playing through an assortment of indie games and writing up a summary about it. The next indie title will most likely be Layers of Fear, another game I’ve been meaning to play for a while. Have you played any games from Drinkbox Studios? Do you have any suggestions for indie games to play? Let me know in the comments below!

Keep on playing…