I play a lot of random hidden object, time management, and puzzle games thanks to inexpensive subscriptions to a couple of game sites. So yesterday I grabbed one of the newer releases: "Twisted: A Haunted Carol." I've played some twisted retelling games they've done before (Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz), which were very enjoyable in a distinctly Jasper Fforde vein. This one? It started out in a similar vein for A Christmas Carol, then went... WTF?
So you're playing as the ghost of Marley, which is an interesting twist. However, the reason you're a ghost is because apparently Scrooge shanked you in the spine and pushed you down the stairs. You're then visited by the three ghosts of Christmas past/present/future, who want to blip YOUR ethereal ass through time, because... they THINK Scrooge is evil and need you to gather "evidence" against him. Wait, what?
1. First of all, wasn't the entire mission of the ghosts redemption, rather than conviction?
2. They're eternal, time-travelling spirits who know exactly what critical times and places to take you to witness the "evidence". Which means they've already seen it. Which means WHY DO THEY NEED YOU TO DO IT AGGGH.
3. They JUST WATCHED HIM MURDER YOU. What other "evidence" do you need, people?
But anyway. Off you go through the realms of time, back and forth, solving various puzzles and learning that well golly gee, Scrooge is a miserly asshole. Quelle surprise. They definitely kicked it up a notch in the game though, with Scrooge literally stealing from orphans and deliberately foreclosing on businesses not for the money, not to own them, but because he for some reason wants the owners to commit suicide.
Then you head back into the past to discover why Scrooge is such a rampaging asshole. I brighten up a bit, since now it seems like we might be getting VAGUELY back on track of the original story (make Scrooge STOP being said miserable fucker). We learn that Lil' Scrooge is ostracized at school, and at home his father blames Ebenezer for his mother's death in childbirth, and alternates between ignoring/denying his existence in the family (kid is missing from all the family portraits of dad & other siblings, etc.), and apparently beating the shit out of the kid while screaming how much he hates him. So... yeah, jeez. That explains a bit. So now we fix it, right? Keep Scrooge from growing up to be such a bitter, hateful misanthrope and all problems are solved! Woo!
Nope. Ghost of Christmas Past basically goes "Huh. That sucks. But oh well, fuck him, we need evidence for REVENGE!" And I'm sitting at my desk going "DAMN, people. Way to be a cold-hearted bitch, here." We pop back into the future to find that Scrooge has apparently managed to buy up and shut down the entire town (because... that benefits him... somehow?), including the local orphanage (O NOES!), by wooing the lovely woman who ran it until she signed the whole thing over to him (so she's bright, too!), then of course shut it down and kicked the orphans out into the snow, no doubt while cackling and eating a puppy. Said woman sinks into despair and hangs herself. For some reason THIS is the final evidence the ghosts need to be convinced that Scrooge is an asshole. Nice to know where the bar is, when it comes to Christmas ghosts.
So now we return to the present... where they're going to go back into the regular storyline and scare the shit out of Scrooge until he un-asshole-ifies himself, right? Ha ha ha, no. VENGEANCE GHOSTS, remember? They decide to team up and torment Scrooge with the ghosts of all the people whose deaths he caused, INCLUDING both all the ones in the future that he technically wasn't even guilty of yet, AND the ghost of his father (who he apparently snapped and pushed down the cellar stairs at some point, for which I can't blame the guy, frankly.) The ghosts torment him day and night until he flips out and is committed to Ye Victorian Madhouse, where (it is implied) he died/killed himself.
THEN the game goes into a big happy montage of "Oh! The world is so much better without him! And everyone lived happily ever after! God Bless us, every one! (Except him, may he burn in hell.)"
It's like the fucking Anti-It's a Wonderful Life. I mean, I get pretty dark and twisted, but this was just disturbing in a way that's hard to put words to. I think most of it is that the game isn't TRYING to be a dark, psychological horror re-imagining. If it were I think it would have sat better. It gave the very distinct impression that the writer actually thought this would be a far better end to the original story. It was also done in a regular, fast-and-cheap, poorly-written-dialogue KIDS GAME style, which makes me a little twitchy about the intended audience. I mean seriously, who the hell looks at Dickens and goes "Yes, this is all well and good, but he's a little too happy-ending, you know? We need more suffering up in here." Next up: Dostoyevsky, but with less cheerfulness and more confusing nicknames!