February 18th, 2007, by
Posted in VisualNews
How much is memory? How much is fantasy? How much is terror?
Playing The Noose is like locking yourself up in someone’s mind. You can think for yourself, but you cannot blot out the ‘other person’ entirely. You can see what ‘that person’ sees, you can hear what ‘that person’ hears, you can even smell what ‘that person’ smells, but you cannot exert any control, you cannot look forward or back.
The game starts in silence. After ten seconds the music queues only to disappear within another ten, yet already the game has no more need of it to make you feel wary and tense. The first half of the game is horror. Imagery, sounds and thought are bombarding your senses and you are drawn in even though you have no idea what is going on.
The story is written as a stream of consciousness, much like Tsukihime. The information given to you is fragmented, colored and warped. As the game progresses through the second half you begin to form theories on what has happened and what is real, but while in the end most things are relatively clear it is still difficult to discern memory, fantasy and terror.
The Noose is a very strange game. Many scenes are contradicting and in the end I did not have much of an idea about what really happened. While the basic idea is clear, I’m having trouble placing all the surrounding information in proper context. At some points the game is so confusing that I’m seriously wondering whether those are purposefully warped thought patterns or translation errors.
I think the real problem in The Noose is not to understand what happened, but to understand what did not happen. Fortunately for English audiences the game does not appear to rely on some strange piece of Japanese folklore, at least as far as I can tell.
It took me 90 minutes to play through the game, mostly because I am a slow reader but also because I took the time to let shards of thought work in for a few seconds. The fitting and extensive use of music and sound actually makes this a visual sound novel and I must commend the authors for the awesome quality of the atmosphere they create.
I am however not happy with the way they re-used content. After 30 minutes most of the scare had worn off, as there was not much new information coming in and the visual and audible effects were no longer original. Some scenes still carried their weight, springing out of nowhere and disappearing without trace, but the bulk of the content was becoming familiar. This did not spoil my interest in the story but it made me slightly detached from it, which for a horror story is a big problem.
This is why I would not call the second half of the game horror. It is mysterious and thrilling, but not scary. To compare with other titles, the game starts off at the toughest of Divi-Dead grade horror, goes through Tsukihime grade horror and ends up at Tsukihime grade mystery.
To give a numerical grade, I would judge The Noose at 8 out of 10 for overall quality and 7 out of 10 on a must-watch scale. Both might have been higher if I had more of an idea of the actual point of the game, and if it had been less repetitive in its effects and its story. All in all a game to captivate; very serious, very indigestible and very, very strange.
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