Pendulo Studios’ Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is a game inspired by the famous filmmaker through its story, color scheme, and characters. This narrative-style storytelling game captivated my attention throughout the entire game, which took me about eight hours to play.
While the story relies on some tired tropes about psychopathy and the gameplay can become monotonous, Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is worth playing for its detailed animation style and complex, twisting storyline.
A Twisted and Unpredictable Storyline
You meet Ed Miller at one of his lowest moments when the game begins. He wakes up on the side of a cliff where he crashed his car with his wife and baby in the car. He is disoriented and runs to a bridge suspended over the cliff, where he relives his father’s suicide.
But when the police arrive at the scene, they realize no one is in the crashed car. Dr. Lomas, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, begins working with Ed to unravel the truth about the crash by exploring his past.
What Dr. Lomas and later Sheriff Reyes uncover is nothing I could have predicted. We follow the story through the perspective of a few different characters throughout the game to examine Ed’s past, search for evidence, and commit unthinkable crimes.
Many characters in the game are compelling and complex, but there are some issues with tropes about psychopathy when you get deeper into the game. Pop culture loves a good psychopath, but relying on an unhinged person with no empathy is overdone and places a stigma on abuse victims.
I don’t want to spoil the entire game for you, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Let’s just say this game upholds the “hot girl psychopath” trope instead of dissecting it.
The best part of the game’s story is the part where Dr. Lomas works with Ed to uncover his past. First, she talks to him about what he remembers about an event from his childhood. Then, she hypnotizes him to reveal the truth about his traumatic past.
This isn’t how hypnosis works in real life. But if we put that aside, it’s very thought-provoking. It made me consider the concept of memory and question whether memory holds the truth of the past or if it’s simply our perception of what happened.
Gameplay is Secondary to the Story
Most of the game feels almost like an interactive movie because it is much more focused on storytelling than gameplay. That being said, the limited gameplay complimented the story and helped keep me compelled through the entire game.
There are three general forms that gameplay takes in Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. The first and most prevalent is the you-pick-the-story actions. Take the example of Dr. Lomas working with Ed in therapy to learn more about his past.
You select which question you want her to ask from a panel of choices. Sometimes the options are timed, while at other times, you can take as long as you want to decide.
I found this aspect of the game powerful at the beginning, especially when Ed chooses whether or not to launch himself over the bridge along with his father in the opening scene.
But once the game is underway, it feels less like you’re impacting the story of the game and more like the overall outcome will be the same no matter what option you select.
Another aspect of the gameplay includes making moves that are prompted on the screen at certain moments in the story, like pouring a glass of Juicy Blue or opening the doors to the tractor.
While this part of the game might feel unnecessary, I believe they were essential because it often feels like you’re watching the game rather than playing it. These gameplay mechanics break up those moments and keep the player connected to the story.
Lastly, the most involved gameplay portion is where you move characters around a space to explore their environment and discover details in their surroundings, for example, when you dive into Ed’s memories or search the farmhouse as Sheriff Reyes.
This is when most of the actual gameplay happens. You walk around until a circle appears over a relevant object. Once you get close enough, you can click on it to unlock new actions or parts of the story. I enjoyed these parts of the game because I liked exploring its various detailed environments.
Beautiful Stylistic Choices
When it comes to the game’s animation, the scenery is the most impressive by far. I found myself stopping at some points in the game to look at the colorful artwork. The lighting displayed in the animation is beautiful and heavily inspired by Hitchcock’s films. There are so many little details inside buildings you visit, like Ed’s home and the charming farmhouse.
The character design was a bit less impressive, and sometimes people’s designs were creepy. Especially the babies. Something about those almost-realistic baby faces made me shiver. But the characters’ emotions came through on their faces, which is vital for such an emotional and dramatic game.
The music in Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is serene and mysterious. I love how the music shifts depending on the character and the situation in the game. It helped me know when to shift gears and settle into a new portion of the game.
If you’re looking for a game that will grab your attention through its story that isn’t too difficult to play, you should check out Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. Despite its fallbacks, I had a great time playing this game because of the compelling story, the simple yet intriguing gameplay, and the careful attention to detail.
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