It's... hrm. It's got no real grey areas, I'll give it that. Everything about it was pretty much OMFG RULE or OMFG PUT DOWN THE CRACKPIPE.
Things What Be Awesome:
- The graphics are generally pretty darn good, especially in the facial expression area.
- The scenery is rendered with exactitude and loving attention to detail. Pay attention to the car parked in front of the hotel as the game progresses for mass lulz.
- The puzzles are challenging enough to not be block-in-the-hole easy, but generally do not fall into the trap of "poking random shit in inventory until something happens" with only a couple of exceptions (one of which is unfortunately at the climax).
- Half of the plot progression moves you gradually backwards through time, so it's kind of like "Memento: The Game", which works really well.
- The protagonist is not a flawless hero, which is always refreshing.
- There is a jackass in the Nighthawk bar who is basically James, which cracks me the fuck up.
- Did I mention there is a Nighthawks Bar? And it is an exact replica of the one from the painting? Which is an awesome homage?
- Speaking of awesome homages, it took me 2 game-days to notice that the security guard outside the Staten Island Mental Institution is essentially Jack Nicholson's rendition of McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, down to the jacket, hat, and accent. It wasn't until he made a joke about the bitchass matron being "Nurse Ratched" that I actually noticed... VERY subtle and well done.
- For the first couple of game-days, the M. Night Shamalamadingdong-style "tweest" was actually fairly subtle and they put in a couple of good, believable "clues" to throw you in the wrong direction about your character.
- At the end, after the one person who believed you (a NYPD homicide detective) is found dead in a dumpster (as you discovered earlier), the end scene finishes up with a cruiser pulling up to you, cause LUCY YOU GOT SOME SPLAININ TO DOOO.
- Also, the whole corpse discovery scene was awesome and terribly, humorously subtle. I actually went through it TWICE before I simultaneously figured out that he was A. dead and B. nearby.
Things What Are Balls:
- The plot is frankly so railroaded at times it should have "Chattanooga" on its side. While I'm not a fan of games that let you completely fuck yourself at the end by not picking up the random matchbook on Day 1, it's also annoying to attempt to go to bed and get the repeated message of "No, I'm not quite ready yet (because I have to call my lawyer/take a leak/fight with some asshole in the bar next door for no reason)."
- The times when the graphics are not awesome, they are deplorable. Coming from the asylum center office to the lobby gives you a consistent shot of the inside of your character's head. And the bar? Sign me up for those never-empty glasses and bottles, buddy! No matter HOW much you drink, your glass is always full and the bottle never actually pours! Or rests on the surface of the bar! MAGIC!
- Also, if someone can teach me how a person with their hands cuffed behind their back can "lever" themselves from floating in water onto a dock edge 3 feet up, I'd like to know for posterity. And to test if they're half-dolphin.
- Mystical skills continue! "She must have slashed her wrists with a blunt object." Wow, that's a trick I'd like to see, quite frankly! And we're not talking blunt object like "butter knife that could be sharpened on something", we're talking "person who was in suicide watch lockdown in a mental asylum, then we never bother to actually explain it. Although we insinuate someone from a mysteeeeeerious government program did it to shut her up, except for the fact that she was the MOST useless of all the witnesses and they didn't kill any of the other inmates/witnesses who they could access exactly as easily because all of the cells apparently use ONE KEY!"
- There is a major plot point in the middle, where one of the patients has to clean up this huge pool of blood lying in the hallway, It's inferred that this is related to an attack you haven't unlocked yet (since the memories move backwards). But later the attack is revealed and... nobody gets killed. Nobody gets injured. WHERE THE FUCK DID THE BLOOD COME FROM? You never find out.
- Ditto every character freaking out about going into the cellar. All freaked hysterical "NO! I CAN'T GO BACK DOWN THERE AGAIN!" Only one guy every goes down there and nothing terribly traumatic happens, so their reactions are stupid in retrospect. If you just need a blocker to keep people on the linear path, use something basic like "No way, the bulb is burned out" or "Ew gross, it smells like the sewer line down there." Don't set up something that isn't going to happen.
- The trailer lies. "5 youths who have committed acts of insane violence..." My ASS. Barely any of them did anything that would be out of place in high school, and the rest, well, it depends on the high school. We have 2 crazy bitches shooting at each other from 500 feet away and missing by a mile, one guy disarming the crazy bitches and locking them in a cell together, one emo pussy throwing a diary at someone's ass (literally, butt-bonk FTW), one guy pushing another so he falls over and bonks his head on a stool, and lots of idiotic posturing and threatening to "kick [your] ass" in general. And one chick having a mental breakdown in her underwear where she fires a pistol repeatedly into the air. Oh, and they play Counterstrike.
Unspeakable violence, all right. You could barely pull off a PG-13 rating with that. Seriously, the only things that I think get this game an M rating are A. the 3-second shot of a topless girl FROM THE BACK in the opening video, B. the one shot of the "blunt suicide" in a pool of blood, and C. the repeated use of the F-word, although I think that's allowable in T-rated games as long as it's used as an insult/threat and not a term for describing consensual sex or anything.
- So, it turns out you're actually an abusive psycho asshole whose wife is leaving him and you totally deserve it. Kind of refreshing, really. Although then it's revealed that the reason she's leaving you is that you "were drunk at a backyard BBQ party, and you got in an argument, and threw the can of lighter fluid at her, but missed and it landed on the grill next to her and exploded, and she lost 85% of her sight, and since she is a painter this ESPECIALLY sucks." Okay. MAJOR ASSHOLE IZ YOU. However, I'm a little baffled by the fact that she is shown repeatedly when you talk to her, and somehow even though her head was fairly recently engulfed in this fireball massive enough to damage her eyes by 85%, she has a full head of long hair and absolutely no burns or graft scarring on her face whatsoever! She looks, in fact, like a supermodel. It must have been that rare and mysterious "Three Stooges Backdraft Effect" where twin finger-sized spikes of flame burst forth and ONLY severely damage both your eyes, leaving the rest of you untouched.
- A bartender in New York who has never met you before today lets you run up a $500 tab and store your luggage there. HA HA HA HA HA.
- Just before the cop car scene at the end, there is a cutscene of you just having A. found out that your Abusive Rage-ey Asshole routine was, in fact, due to government subliminal brainwashing and Not Your Fault Hooray(tm), and B. escaped from the government facility where you found this out and just crawled up on the beach of Manhattan, essentially... your estranged wife shows up and give you a forgiving smile and takes your hands. Awwwww.
Now, see... I'd be okay with that under very specific circumstances. Like... a montage where you come back with the hard drive and videotapes you snagged from the facility proving that they were brainwashing people against their will to be psychotically violent, prove your innocence, go into therapy to undo it, and your wife is there with you observing the collaboration all the while and after welcomes you back with open arms... dude, TOTALLY good and makes sense. I am DOWN with that ending.
Instead, 30 minutes after you drag yourself out of the surf and into Central Park, after it has been made REPEATEDLY CLEAR that your cell phone/PDA was lost before you entered the facility so you A. have no way to call anyone and B. all your recorded documentation of the psych sessions that prove the brainwashing are gone, your wife just mysteriously shows back up again (after her last words were essentially "fuck you, it's over, don't bother", which to be fair is about what I'd say to a drunk asshole who almost blinded me while having a tantrum), and somehow PSYCHICALLY KNOWING everything that has gone before, and even though you're still implanted with these insanely abusive and violent impulses towards her, just grabs your hands wordlessly and forgives you. AwwwwwwwWTF?!
So, yeah. In general I give it kudos, because if the general game weren't so good, the flaws wouldn't jar so badly. It's definitely worth playing... just be prepared to grit your teeth in frustration at times.