After playing Penumbra: Overture, everyone knew a sequel was on its way. The ending leaves scores of questions unanswered and perfectly prepares a follow-up. In 2008, Frictional Games released Penumbra: Black Plague, and in many ways, Black Plague does make the original feel like a mere overture. Frictional well heeded feedback following Overture's release and significantly tuned up their product in regards to pacing, controls, physics, and character interaction. All while continuing the fantastically creepy atmosphere and adding significant new elements to the story.
Atmosphere. Danger. Environment. Expectation. These words are integral to any sort of horror-based media, and yet many have seemingly forgotten all about the reasons behind fear and instead rely on cheap tactics to do the job. Penumbra: Overture shows a much more sophisticated ability to keep players on edge without relying on grotesque visuals and cheap 'jump moments' to elicit responses. I was particularly curious as to how this game could effect me since I'm not easily frightened and cheap attempts at fear usually seem more humorous than scary. And overall, the game does a fairly good job at its goals. Let me explain.
Overture almost takes advantage of those modern media shortcuts to create a fully engrossing experience with the capability to be legitimately frightening. As a response to these movies, shows, and games, your mind now expects something to happen when you travel down a dark hallway, into a new room, or when encountering an enemy. Instead, nothing typically happens in Penumbra. In fact, very little "happens" throughout the whole game. Almost all of the happenings and story events involve Phillip sorting out the past of his forgotten surroundings instead of building the story himself or primarily creating a story. At heart, Overture is a first-person adventure game, with the atmosphere as really the only major demarker to the survival-horror tag. I can recall only a handful of actual "events" Phillip was directly involved in. And yet this feels perfectly fine in the context of the game.
Welcome to another Audio-Visual Experience, brought to you by the First Hour. Again, these articles are specially created and intended to give you a varied, concrete experience of the game's sights and sounds without having to actually play the game yourself. Whether you haven't played the game or have already completed it but need a reminder or some nostalgia, this experience is for you. However, if you think you may play the game anytime in the near future and would prefer not to be spoiled, you should probably avoid this article, as it contains direct spoilers at times, up to and including the ending. For a complete first hour experience, you can view the first hour of Penumbra: Overture.
So sit back and enjoy the stylings of survival horror masters Frictional Games in their original release, Penumbra: Overture.
Just in time for Halloween, we have a special first hour of Penumbra: Overture. Released in 2007 by indie developer Frictional Games, Penumbra: Overture is the first in a trilogy that promises to be a uniquely frightening experience. As part survival horror, part puzzle solver and part first person shooter, initial previews evoke thoughts of Half-Life 2 infused with terror, which is just fine with us. I've heard great things about the game for a while, mostly from flattering word-of-mouth. This is as good a time as any, after purchasing it from the Humble Indie Bundle several months ago.
For this first hour playthrough, we've trying something a bit different. I played through and recorded the initial first hour and then sent the video to Greg, who then watched and wrote what he saw and felt during the run. I was curious in seeing how his experience would differ from mine, especially since third-person impressions are so important to overall game opinion, especially when it comes to making purchasing decisions. So I'll hand this off to Greg (while adding some extra comments I deem appropriate) and then bring it back for the conclusion.
If you wish, you can follow along yourself with the provided Youtube videos. Apologies about the graphical and slight sound sync issues, but you can blame Youtube for those.
There's an absolutely stunning deal running right now that can net you five great indie games for whatever price you want to pay. Similar to the pay what you want World of Goo deal that was running last year, the Humble Indie Bundle can be grabbed for as much as you feel like handing over. They even allow you to split your contribution up between the developers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Child's Play charity. All great programs that do good work and need money.
World of Goo is honestly worth the $20 I originally paid for it (plus the $3 I tossed to them last year during their promotion), so go get that game. GO! The other games are Aquaria, Gish, Lugara, and Penumbra Overture. While I know next to nothing about these titles, supporting the independent developer is always a great cause. The best part: all the games are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and are DRM free. No excuses now!
Buy the Humble Indie Bundle, it's running for six more days!