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A door slams shut..., May 4, 2023
(This review is based on the Spring Thing 2023 version.)
Well this is something else!
I Am Prey is a tense pursuit thriller where the PC is free to parkour around the map. If you can find the routes in time…
What the player would normally think of as scenery is transformed into accessible passages and back-ways in this game. Furniture, pipings, machinery,… They’re all available for climbing, jumping, crawling to find alternate routes and handy shortcuts around the map. Good thing too, the normal hallways are patrolled by a monstrous unseen entity looking to find you. (The fact that the kitchen pantry has been empty for some time does hint at the reason why…)
I tested this game in its bare-bones parkour proof-of-concept incarnation. It felt like spotting some rare and beautiful lizard in the branches of a vine-overgrown tree. A flicker of colour and movement that I could not quite make out yet.
What a treat to see it now in its glorious splendour!
The commands will take getting used to, as will orienting yourself in relation to the passages between locations. Read the manual and take your time to learn the game. You will be rewarded.
There is an anxiousness-inducing stealth element to the game, where the PC needs to locate certain items before being able to escape. All the while the presence of the Predator is felt and heard, every corner might be lethal.
Sounds play an important role. First of all the voice of your pursuer taunting you through the intercom. I found this actively stressful, distracting from the task at hand and paralysing me with indecisiveness.
Second, sound betrays where you and the pursuer are. Used with care, sound can be your ally…
Along with being a stealth game, I Am Prey also rang a lot of platformer-bells in my head. Jumping, climbing on surrounding objects to find hidden routes? My days playing SuperMarioLand on the SNES revolved around all that.
A parser-based text-game is turn-based, almost by definition. (Real time parsers will exist, no doubt. I shudder at the heartattack-inducing experience playing them would be for typing-challenged me.) Movement between locations is not the point, the game’s about what you do once you are in the next location. Contrary to that habitual room-based gameplay, I Am Prey succeeds in drawing the player into the movement-system as the key-feature of the game.
Remember the resting points on the platforms Mario could stand on relatively safely? You had just completed a precise jump onto a reassuringly broad platform and now you can breathe and plan the next move. Maybe there’s even a questionmark-block to investigate or some coins to pick up. But the focus is on the next jump, the next climb.
The rooms in I Am Prey felt like this to me. Places of temporary relative safety, for catching your breath and quickly searching. But you gotta move, man… You always gotta move…
Very exciting, very inviting to replay. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.