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Penumbra: Overture Review

Penumbra: Overture by Frictional Games is the first episode in a series of three first person puzzle mystery games. The game follows the story of a man who has sought shelter from the elements inside a mysterious tunnel. He subsequently explores deeper and deeper into the cavern as he attempts both to find a way out, and to solve mysteries surrounding his father. Along the way, the player discovers a number of strange creatures, as well as a wealth of evidence and history about the establishment, which only serve to deepen the mystery, and thicken the plot.

The puzzles in the game are reasonably straight forward, but challenging enough to make you think at least a bit. The atmosphere in the game is executed quite well, and is probably the stand-out feature of the game. There are details and various items across the game that hint at the nature of the underground tunnel network that you are exploring, but leave enough to the imagination. Many items are controlled with the mouse on screen; the player actually moves the mouse to open a door or pull a lever. This adds to the level of immersion profoundly. Instead of the heavy combat we see in a game like F.E.A.R., the only weapons that the player is provided with are tools like a hammer or broom. Weapons are swung manually with a mouse motion, just like other objects, rather than a simple click. This can be a little arduous, and somewhat frustrating, but it underscores the untrained abilities of the main character. As a result, it is usually wise to avoid confrontation with enemies, which can only be killed with skill and strategy. It’s actually a little bit scary when you see one, and hide behind a crate as it passes by. The 3D art is somewhat lower quality than what you would expect to see from a AAA title, but better than some of the other indie work out there. Still, it’s quite adequate, especially considering its original release date.

In the end, Penumbra: Overture is more of a story than a game, but the gameplay that the player experiences in order to advance the story is enjoyable. Everything is focused on and surrounding the story, and it does a fine job in telling it. It makes me want to see how the story continues.

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