the writings of a mind

Title: Midnight Nowhere
Genre: Adventure
Big Word: Masochist
Strap: "In the obit, under ‘cause of death’, it’s going to say, ‘Leather pants’."

"I’m not sure it’s heroin. Otherwise I’d shoot it up. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so f**king bad." Says the player-character of Midnight Nowhere upon inspecting a hypodermic needle, within the first two minutes of the game. Thirty seconds after exclaiming, "I’m not picking up any of that polythene shit!"

It’s not until you’ve finished inspecting the laboratory table that you’ll turn around and notice the first of the porn photos stuck to a cabinet. Of course, you’ll have already explored the contents of the three body bags in this morgue (having climbed out of the fourth yourself), and said of a female corpse, "Ahhh! Nice tits! Needed some silicone though."

It’s a good job none of our mums ever read this magazine. Understand that everything described above is a fraction of what occurs in the /very first scene/. And this point and click adventure doesn’t let up.

It would, of course be far too easy to mis-focus this review. "As easy as pissing on two fingers," as the amnesiac protagonist would mutter. Because Midnight Nowhere /does/ have a complete game framework upon which all these ‘adult’ banners are strung. Question is, adventure chums, is it a good framework?

Spilling from the crazy minds of Russian developers Saturn+, Midnight Nowhere continues their quest to maintain the lifespan of the traditional adventure. This throwback to the 90s heyday even includes the ability to change your cursor for interaction – look, speak to, pick up, and use. If perhaps a little less, er, traditional in other areas.

So you’ve woken up in a body bag, you’ve no idea who you are, and everyone around you is gruesomely dead. Heard it? It’s interesting that the feeling of cliché is somewhat lessened by the dead bodies’ not getting up and trying to eat your face. This, for the majority of the game, has a ‘straight’ storyline. You’re in a town in the south of the US, in (for some unexplained reason) 2015, and the place is in terrified chaos. A serial killer, called The Executioner, is murdering anyone and everyone, his death-count in three figures. The place is locked down, the authorities ‘looking after’ anyone who might leave, and you are trapped in this hospital with a bunch of savagely destroyed bodies.

Split into two distinct halves, the first portion is all about trying to get out of the hospital. Every door is locked, with the keys or other methods for opening hidden behind another locked door, and so on and forth and on. All fairly standard fare, and the solutions to the pathway are not exactly groundbreaking. It’s just that the majority of the items you need are to be found about the person of those more mortally challenged.

But where special mention must be given is to the nature of the properly puzzly puzzles. For example: dark room, need to find torch, need to find two batteries for torch to light room. Nothing original. But having to retrieve one of the batteries from a vibrator locked in a female doctor’s metal cabinet, perhaps is. Having to find a way to get passed a finger-print scanner is reasonably commonplace. Solving this by hacking someone’s thumb off with an axe is somewhat less familiar.

Important objects are inevitably concealed behind porn posters, the naked bodies of dead women are vocally admired, and every other sentence finds some excuse to bellow out the f-word. So here we have an openly misogynist cavalcade of soft-core imagery, sprinkled liberally with necrophiliac fantasy. But, it’s not as easy as you might expect to throw around phrases like "sensationalist" or "crude for the sake of being crude". Yes, of course, this game’s release will have the Daily Mail in palpitations of brainless apoplexy. But the nagging question remains: Are they really doing it to deliberately cause a fuss?

There’s something about the nonchalance with which Saturn+ include the less ‘regular’ content, that leads us to believe that they were merely telling the story they wished to tell, rather than attempting to create a media frenzy. The story they wished to tell happens to be extremely adult in nature, features a sarcastic, non-plussed hero, involves gruesome attitudes and ideas, and a plethora of porn adorning every awning. Trouble is, it’s a bit crap.

The puzzles, like some giant stereotype in the sky, tend to be painfully easy, or /impossibly/ hard. Without being tipped off, how would we ever have known to use the /plastic pen/ on itself to make it become a metal safe key. Complete and utter rubbish like that is scattered throughout, meaning that there isn’t a strong internal logic behind trouble-solving, and hence all the accompanying frustrations of a poorly structured point and click.

And then there’s the story – it’s such a crock of cack. This is never more emphasised than by the utterly irrelevant and demonically stupid ending. A so-called ‘twist’ ignores anything that had happened previously, and the entire serial killer thread is seemingly forgotten. An ending can often save a weak story. This one was the final hammer blow to the nail driven through its brain.

Despite being occasionally inspired (see SINSPIRATIONAL), and although this is far more competently designed than the majority of its genre passing through our doors, Midnight Nowhere still falls wide of the mark of being an entertaining experience. Ignoring the fetishistic content, it just doesn’t hold itself together as a cogent adventure game.

Margin Note:

Despite having some extremely dodgy translation in some of the text ("To that number, add the number of wddings in the film that only funerals."), the majority of the main character’s narration is reasonably well acted, and occasionally inspired. It almost had us warm to the game at points. For instance: at one point, when looking at an object that wasn’t of use, his resigned response was, "I don’t see any nuances at all. A round hat, a blue sky, a world… full of shit."

 Extremely adult adventuring, that doesn’t have the story to hold itself together.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Oxygen
Developer: Saturn+
Price: £20
Minimum System: PII 400, 64MB RAM, GeForce 2, 1.1GB HD
Recommended: PIII 733, 128 MB RAM, GeForce 3, 1.3GB HD
Multi-player: None
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