Thursday, June 5, 2014

Downfall - a kitten Quasimodo

"For all we could have done
And all that could have been"
NIN - The Great Below

Unfortunately, I can't discuss Downfall without referencing The Cat Lady. Quite likely if Michalski had stopped after one game Downfall itself would have passed quietly out of memory of even its niche audience. As it stands, Downfall alone isn't particularly worth the time, but much as I frequently comment about webcomics, it is a fascinating window into the development of a creative style for those who enjoyed The Cat Lady.

In The Cat Lady, the character Joe Davis was clearly either an incomplete subquest or an external reference, and as the latter proved to be true I was curious about what preceded one of the few games to wring much emotion from me in recent years. Sadly, Downfall is quite obviously not only a cheaper game lacking even its sequel's few bells and whistles but also a much less certain first attempt. The extraneous mouse-hovering adventure game convention which was done away with in The Cat Lady was still all too present in Downfall. The visual style is much less refined. It had no voice acting and much more primitive music.

All that's theft is the core of such a game, the writing, and the difference between the two is striking. Downfall is much more amateurish, fumbling, riddled with extraneous lines and awkwardly interjected mid-dialogue exposition. The situations and characters are less consistent, the violence more gratuitous, the gratuitous sex more so. It is less the work of an iconoclastic auteur as the ramblings of a dissatisfied critic attempting to, assuming he can, create.

Yet, still. The intent is there. The haunting projection of the author/player's id into the activity on screen, the characters' frustrated desperation for interpersonal connection, the feeling of effort with every click, the... morbid thirst for life, if that makes any sense, it's all present in Downfall, if in a more awkward, dilute form. That particular critic really could create and I'm quite glad he was encouraged to continue.

I wouldn't recommend Downfall by itself but if you liked The Cat Lady, it's worth the time.

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