Written by sPINDRAFT 02/03/2014
Here we have another university project, this time from the Entertainment and Engineering University of Utah. It is understandable that the majority of games produced in this way are often times ideas that are dreamed up rather quickly among a group of folks who may or may not have worked together before and are now operating under fairly tight parameters. It is my experience that these games, although fun and entertaining, in many cases lack the cohesiveness of a well laid story board or even an artistical direction that has been completely mapped out.
That is not to say that these games are not worth playing, quite the opposite actually as they are usually shorter than a fully produced game (making them perfect for anytime play) generally relying heavily on some sort of game mechanic to provide the challenge that is most often times achieved by accomplishing a list of objectives over a period of time.
‘Erie’ stands out in the niche of university finals as a simple idea laid out on a well designed map that affords the player well deserved moments of gratifying accomplishment. These episodes of tension filled glee are short lived as you hide in the duct work realizing that you have solved only one piece of the puzzle and must now venture out once again into the stricken Enrico Fermi I Nuclear Facility in search of the next key.
The map which represents the facility, which has entered some sort of major shutdown, is one of the best designs as far as use of space per size and scope is concerned that I have ever seen. The build is done in such a way as to be incorporated into the very game play itself; it is not merely a space that houses the game but is actually part of the game. This design element alone is enough to elevate ‘Erie’ above its peers as it begs to be used as part of your plan to defeat your current predicament which precisely stated means escaping the faciity and the crazed mutant thing that is wandering around in there.
Getting caught by this thing will get you killed but so far as I can tell this is a necessary part of the action as you cannot run past it, you cannot beat it up or kill it and it never stops chasing you. There are duct tunnels in a few places that afford an opportunity to hide where spooky cannot get to you but after running like mad until you find a key you may not be able to return far enough to reach one before running into gruesome and getting the living shit smacked out ot you. The cut scene when you get caught is absolutely hilarious.
Stuck in the locked down facility you must be a quick study, you will have to speedily navigate the corridors; remembering turns, rooms, and most important, where the holes that open to the duct work are. Your name is Oliver Victor, a Red Cross investigator sent to find missing persons in a sleepy Michigan town after the Fermi reactor suffers a partial meltdown but the story outside is fairly irrelevant as you never see the town; your entire saga takes place inside the facility. You do find random documents and letters but the story, such as it is delivered, is really secondary; the problem of navigating the corridors and finding the necessary objects to reveal an escape route is the primary function of this game and it pulls this off in a very engrossing manner.
‘Erie’ is a winning example of simplistic design delivered in such a way that the player is fully involved in the experience. The folks at Team Fear (that is what they called themselves at Master Games Studio) have pulled off an excellent offering of cat and mouse inside a broken nuclear facility, about the only real gripe I can come up with is the ending – it just ends, BAM! just like that you walk out the last door and its over. I would love to see this idea expanded upon with a scenario that continues on into the surrounding town or countryside.
As it is you will be hooked very quickly and refuse to give up until you find that last door, ‘Erie is that kind of game.
HAG Score - 8.9