The Inpatient: Should "Until Dawn" Keep Making VR Games?
The Butterfly Effect
Released for PlayStation in 2015, cinematic horror release Until Dawn, set the stage for more games with choice mechanics in the main story in which the player could choose various endings based on their actions throughout game play.
The story is set in Canada where several teens are staying at a family owned lodge during a holiday when two twin sisters mysteriously vanish after a prank goes awry. Revisiting the lodge one year later, survivors of last years mystery are then hunted down by the twin's older brother who suffers a psychotic break after the disappearance of the twins and the game wisely mixes into Native People folklore of the Wendigo, a vengeful demonic creature that corrupts those tempted into cannibalism.
Where the story left open many questions for the player like: "Why would a ski lodge be closed in the winter, assuming peak season with snow on the ground that teens could hold a party?" "What is the age difference between Josh's friends and the twins that are told to be sixteen? Only one of the other people there was mentioned to be the twins age so would the prank that lead Hannah to run out of the house after Mike coaxes her to have sex with everyone else taping be child pornography if Josh's friends are presumably in college?" "If the family has owned the lodge for all of their children's lives as hinted by artifacts in the bedrooms, why has no one ever heard the folklore of the Wendigo until now?" "How does the family not know about the mines or the ruins of the hospital on or near their land and check there when the twins went missing?" "And how come Jessica, who was there for the events of the year before acts like it is the first time she has met everyone?"
Don't let these things distract you from the critical acclaim the game received for its parody on teen horror movies. Until Dawn is clever giving the players an opportunity for repeated game play allowing critical decisions to matter in what they call the Butterfly Affect, which links all the characters of the game. Something a small as a snub to Sam early on in the game or choosing to shoot a bird, can change whether the characters live or die throughout the game. There is no true ending, unless you factor in there are three characters that a needed to make it to the final section and can not be killed until that moment no matter what choices you make. Play being a jerk to everyone, play making smart choices, dumb choices. I have tried just about all the combos and have managed to save at most about five people- Josh can never be saved no matter what choice is made. Depending on who all is left when the next morning arrives, a set of police interviews with the survivors play.
For a game based on choices and quick time events, Until Dawn was extremely enjoyable enough to get two spin off games, strangely both made to support the VR system which was not available at the time of Until Dawn's release.
Some gamers really do enjoy the VR system, I have tried it but haven't found enough of a gamer library to make it worth the purchase though, which is where games like the Until Dawn series and big studio releases like last years Resident Evil 7 offered up VR as a playable mode for bigger scares.
But not enough fans yet bought into the PlayStation VR yet, making it risky for a highly acclaimed game to only bring new content to the franchise in the form of a VR game. Surely they hope to bank on the success of Until Dawn to keep more fans buying last years Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood, an extremely fun psychological "ride" exploring Josh's wavering sanity as it explores events from Until Dawn as if it were a fun house ride, giving Josh a chance to watch him punish his friends once again for the prank that ran his sisters out of the cabin that night, killing Beth and forcing Hannah who was stuck down a mine and critically injured to consume Beth's flesh to keep herself alive until it finally turned her into a Wendigo herself.
Rush Of Blood from the trailer and other reviews seems a great game, but only allowing access to fans that had access to VR chased away the potential for more exposure to the franchise.
The technological capability of VR on PlayStation is wonderful in what it can offer games like Resident Evil 7, or Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood, but driving away potential fans for not having the hardware is taking away from the possibility of more consumers.
Josh: A Jigsaw Of Time
While the story is extremely compelling of Josh's frail sanity after the disappearances of his twin sisters' Beth and Hannah near the family lodge in Canada, Josh spends the next year plotting revenge on friends he feels contributed to the twins' demise. Somehow again, during the assumed operational season of the lodge, Josh gets all the friends reunited for the annual party and spends who knows how much time before rigging his Jigsaw style traps to kill and maim his friends, depending on how the game is played and what choice mechanics are made. Although flashbacks and later hallucinations show Josh was seeing a psychiatrist, possibly even before the twins went missing- how much of the story actually was Josh is open to interpretation. How could he not get the door open to the lodge but seemed to master engineering to make his death traps? How did he make the ghost appear when the shot clearly shows now wires? Why can't Josh just accept his grief and how messed up was he ahead of time before the events of the story?
Files found around the environment talk about Josh being on several prescriptions but someone on Reddit actually Googled the drug names used and none of them were for psychotic disorders.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood, was an odd choice for sequel material being a shooter than places the player in a cart being sent through a fun house reviewing events from Until Dawn. With this sequel only playable in VR, it feels like it lost some of the audience that first tuned into Until Dawn. Yes, it gave a little more game play and control, things that fans of the first game felt the original lacked with only quick time events and decision making as the action, Until Dawn felt like you were watching a game, and that really opened the genre to the future of more cinematic choice mechanic based titles like the upcoming Detroit: Become Human.
Rush Of Blood showed the potential that the Until Dawn franchise had in more action based games, and pushed for VR to be that vehicle.
Rush Of Blood showed that the Until Dawn franchise had a future in more action based games after the VR shooter, and pushed the developer further with the release of The Inpatient.
Until Dawn had proven that choice mechanics work in horror titles.
Welcome To Blackwood Sanitarium
The Inpatient, a prequel to the events of the first entry in the Until Dawn series, is a first perspective game in VR set at the Blackwood Sanitarium, the decaying ruins of the hospital that Mike finds in the section of Until Dawn that connects from the lodge to the mines.
Not much is known yet about the upcoming release, but just like Until Dawn the events of the game are based on the choice mechanic and the players interaction with other people in the environment of how they react to events and make choices will decide a final outcome of the game.
The patient has amnesia, we are told and must unlock the events of how they got to the hospital gradually similar to the premise of Dementium back on the Nintendo 3DS.
The Inpatient, exclusive to PlayStation VR, like Rush Of Blood, relies on the new capability in game play to capture a first person horror experience unlike anything we have played before- but is it the smart choice to again release further entries in a franchise with an already cult following that forces the player to invest in new hardware for their gaming console to be able to keep up?
I would love to see developers look at the outcome of these three games and coming away with a fourth game that goes back to being able to use the PlayStation controllers but mixes in a little more action based game play to add to a spooky experience.
Are there more stories to tell about this franchise now that we have had two games based on the same event and a prequel? How about what happened after the events of Until Dawn? Is the lodge still in business? Are the Wendigo's of Hannah, Josh, depending on the ending, and what others are left still in mines? Since the one person that was hunting them has passed has the Native People let anyone else know about the folklore so people are aware of the potential?
How did any of the teens that lived through Until Dawn depending on what ending you got, just go on with life after knowing one of their friends was stuck in a mine eating the body of her dead twin sister, while their demented brother tried to torture anyone involved after the fact and indirectly caused the death of several of their friends depending on how the Butterfly Effect outcome was in your ending?
There is so much more to explore with these characters, and that doesn't need to be a VR experience. I hope to see more entries in this series and will probably borrow someone's VR to play The Inpatient, but I am slightly disappointed this will be another VR exclusive, when PlayStation has yet to peak my interest enough in their VR library to foot to the cost of the hardware.