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Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.4    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 300 MB

Penumbra: Black Plague
July 3, 2008 | Michael Scarpelli

Click to enlarge

One of the creepier environments in the game.
People who make scary games would love me. I find it hard to play scary games because they scare the bejeezus out of me. I load the game up, turn out the lights, turn up the sound and proceed to make quick-saves every fifteen seconds because I know bloodthirsty doom is going to leap around the corner and try to make me its girlfriend at pretty much any moment.

I still love to play them, though. It's like a roller coaster ride. I know it will terrify me, and I'm willing to wait an hour in line for that five second brush with death and adrenaline. So, when the sequel to the moody-as-all-get-out Penumbra popped up on the Inside Mac Games schedule, I jumped at it.

Penumbra: The Black Plague is a direct sequel to the original, picking up where that one left off. The game is a bit of tricky game to review because it is at once everything that is great and everything that can suck about video-gaming. But, and this is where I think it counts the most, the game scared the hell out of me. That having been said...

The Light
Penumbra's storyline is cryptic and fun. It's sort of a melange of a lot of survival horror stories out there, but it works pretty well. In true Lovecraftian style, you've gone to the frigid North after receiving a letter from your Father prompting you help continue his research. When you arrive, things are not going well. It turns out that a shadowy organization known as the Archaic seems to have unearthed themselves a doozy of a virus that, despite their protocols and hierarchical procedures, has ravaged their facility and staff. What's the twist on this little virus... well... I'll reveal that later (don't worry, there will be a spoiler warning).

Penumbra is a first person, physics-based, survival horror title. It's also just my type of survival horror, the kind where you don't get any weapons. Let me tell you, there are few more visceral gaming experiences you can have than running blindly through dark corridors from something you can hear at your back (but cannot turn to look at because it will catch up to you) and knowing that you have no recourse but to KEEP RUNNING. When you see something you don't like, well... you had better hide, hadn't you?

The game has a heavy physics-based slant on how the gamer is meant to interact with the game. Everything can be picked up and knocked over and tossed around. You can grab objects and pull them close and rotate them around and stack them and all that. The game makes decent advantage of this, designing puzzles in most areas that depend upon your ability to manipulate the environment in this fashion. Suffice it to say, this is one of the few games where you can think to yourself "I should be able to break that with a rock"... and you can.


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