Posted by Kenneth Wilson.
First posted on 04 October 2009. Last updated on 21 November 2010.
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Where there are pipes, there are valves.
The abandoned greenhouse is also a science laboratory.
Where there are valves, there are puzzles.
The décor takes a turn for the bizarre!
The rusted walkway is just another sign of the general disrepair that is present everywhere.

Every genre of video games has a shining model: a singular bright example of greatness that countless other games afterward will try to imitate. First-person shooter games have Doom and Halo; real-time strategy games have Command & Conquer and StarCraft; survival horror games have Resident Evil and Silent Hill; platform games have Mario Bros. and Castlevania. All of these great games spawn countless copycats, some of which are great in their own rights and some of which are considerably less so. For point-and-click adventure games, the models that define the vast majority of entries in the genre are undoubtedly Monkey Island and Myst. Originally titled Sublustrum, Outcry (also known as Outcry: The Dawn) is an adventure game from Russian developer Phantomery Interactive that falls squarely into the Myst model.

The comparison between Outcry and Myst (as well as its sequels) is most obvious in the game's presentation. The player is shown from a first-person perspective of the character's surroundings, and interactive elements are indicated by a context sensitive cursor that changes over hidden hotspots. These interactive elements include items that can be picked up, devices that can be manipulated, and pathways that can be followed to other areas. Occasionally, a series of events will result in a cut scene that will momentarily take control away from the player, but these do not happen often and never last very long. At any time, the player can look around the character's surroundings in a 360° panorama (as in Myst III: Exile). However, traveling between locations does not trigger an animation that smoothly transitions the point of view; rather, a series of intermediary photographs or rendered drawings are shown of the character's point of view as the player travels to the next location. Although the sound effects are fitting and the music is appropriately atmospheric, there is little in the presentation to suggest that Outcry is more than just a mere clone of Myst.

Superficially, Outcry's gameplay also seems to be taken right out of Myst's playbook: pick up an object, use it with an environmental element, solve the puzzle, and move on. Upon deeper inspection, however, the comparison falls apart, not to Outcry's benefit. Paramount to the puzzles in Myst is simplicity. While the puzzles in Myst are not always easy, they are based on commonsense logic and rational concepts that are easy to understand. Yet, a good number of puzzles in Outcry require in-game reading—in fact, a lot of in-game reading. Topics range from botany to electrical engineering, and much of it is dry, and seemingly purposefully so. This makes the act of solving the puzzles considerably more tedious than it needs to be and far too difficult, especially if the reading material cannot be completely understood.

Another failing in Outcry where this simplicity is thrown out the window is in the story. In the game, you play a middle-aged writer who has just received a letter from your estranged brother, urging you to visit him so that he may share in secret with you the scientific discovery of a lifetime he has recently made. Upon your arrival, however, you discover that your brother has mysteriously disappeared. The only clue is a strange machinery contraption left behind in his home that, according to your brother, can unlock the essence of human cognition and consciousness. You suspect that your brother has been experimenting with this machine and has now vanished because of it. Yet, beyond this loose premise, for the early part of the game, it is not incredibly apparent what is going on and how the player intends to find the missing brother, especially due to an overuse of scientific terminology being tossed around. After that, the story becomes completely impenetrable. Time travel, floating islands, and mechanical plants all occur in the latter part of the game without any explanation of why or any indication of what is coming next or how what the player sees at any point ties into what the player has already seen. Clearly, the designers have imagined a deep, meaningful, and powerful message to say with Outcry's story, but figuring this message out turns out to be, by far, Outcry's most difficult puzzle.

In the end, there is little about Outcry that recommends itself. The story is bewildering, disjointed, and poorly fleshed out. The subject matter is dry, the puzzles lack elegance, and the compulsory reading is uninteresting and difficult to grasp. The majority of the game is unappealing to look at, and all of it looks as if it is an outdated game created a decade ago. Outcry may have some common elements with Myst, but too few of them are elements that are still desirable in the modern adaptation of the genre.

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