You, Vincent, have a dream one night that you are on these stairs, filled with assorted types of blocks, and you must climb them to escape something terrible. You awake to find a woman sleeping next to you that is not your girlfriend and is very attractive. You soon learn that a lot of people are having these dreams and seems to have to do with people who are being unfaithful, but it doesn't seem to be quite that simple. You have two main friends, Johnny and Orlando, who are always trying to help Vincent throughout the story. That is the general synopsis of the game, to go into it anymore would be pretty silly since half the fun of the game is learning about the story and characters.
On top of the main story mode, there is the Babel and the Colosseum. The Babel is a super challenging set of four levels; each level is unlocked by earning a specific number of gold medals during the single player story. The Babel can be played alone, but it also has the option for Cooperative. Unfortunately, the Coop in this game is couch coop only, no online cooperative. The levels are tracked through a online leaderboard and each level is very, very challenging. This is a hard game, even on normal, and even the first challenge of the Babel is as hard as some of the most difficult levels of the single player story. The Colosseum is also very hard, but it relaxes a bit on the challenge and relies on other players to create difficulty for you. It is a versus mode that contains about the same number of levels as the Babel, but instead of working together to reach the end, you now want to reach the end before the others. Just like Babel though, this mode is only couch coop, no online. Both modes can be played with up to four players, the harder the level the more people can play it (pretty much), but it would be quite a pain to play four players unless you have a massive television. Despite the lack of online, these modes do add a bit of length to the game.
Single Player Story
Length- Here we are, at the meat of the game. The single player game runs about 10-20 hours. why such a gap? Well, because every level you may redo for a higher score and some of the levels are incredibly difficult. I can say that I haven't cussed this much at a video game in years, I must of had to restart some of the levels at least ten times. That is worse when the level is really long, but the length of the game is up to you. If you are running through the game, as fast as you can, without doing any side story, character conversations, the arcade game at the bar, or trying to get silver or gold medals, THEN, if you do all that, then you may be able to get through the game in about 8-10 hours, but why would you want to do that?
Gameplay- The game revolves around your nightmares and the bar, The Stray Sheep. In the nightmares you go through a specific area each night, which can contain two to five levels. Each area is special and has a theme, some examples are the Cathedral or the Clock Tower. The game starts out pretty simple, basically telling you to climb and move blocks in order to make a landing for you to climb onto, but each area adds something new. It could just be that a area adds a type of block, like spike blocks or bomb blocks, but they usually add at least one block and amp up the difficulty. Between each level of an area, there are little safe points that have other "sheep" and a save point. All the safe areas have the same layout, but the background is always different and the music is specific to the area. You can talk to the other sheep and learn new techniques from them; basically, it just shows you a video that says this is how you can get around this specific type of situation, and your character, Vincent, usually comes up with a new technique based off of the one they shared. So, each safe area usually shows you two techniques and they seem pretty simple when you see them, but they are very, very important to know on the difficult levels. You can also talk to sheep and learn about them, because they are actual people in the real world, but everyone looks like sheep to each other. You can influence other sheep, but more on that later. The last thing that the safe point offers is a merchant. The merchant sheep sells various items that you can use, some examples of items that he sells are: create a block, change all blocks to normal, remove all enemies, and climb two blocks at once.
Gameplay Video showing off character interactions and The Stray Sheep
Gamplay Pt.2- I spoke much of the nightmare realm already, but there is still some more to say about it. Previously, I mentioned medals with relevance to the Babel. Well, for each area of the game you earn a medal; bronze, silver, or gold. Each level of each area will also present you with a medal, those medals add up to make the overall medal of the area. It took me a long time to figure out how to efficiently earn gold medals and it's definitely hard to do. Each level has at least one checkpoint, but you really don't want to use checkpoints if you are going for anything other than bronze. Each step you take, up the stairs to the goal, gives you a multiplier; so, if you take fourteen steps in a row you will have 14000 x 14, without any modifications. You have a timer that run's down and each time you get to a new step then the timer will reset and fill back up, so you want to move quickly and get the timer/multiplier going. If you die, you have the choice to restart at the beginning of the level or at the last checkpoint, but if you use a checkpoint you lose all the multiplier you had built up by that point, and all the score you would of had. If you want a gold medal, you must start over the level from the beginning without dying. Sound hard? Well it is, but you may repeat levels anytime you have access to your cellphone in the story. Once you learn the layout of a level (levels aren't randomized thank god) it get's a lot easier to run through it without losing too much time or without a death.
Story- The story is all over the place- full of monsters, dark themes, and conflict; so, it's pretty good. There are something around eight possible endings, but I got the *good* one. Throughout the game you have a meter that has blue on one side and red on the other, seemingly good and bad, but it's not that simple. A lot of the red choices, don't seem like *bad* choices. Although, once you figure out what the meter actually represents, then you may have an easier time keeping the meter on one side or the other. When you interact with other sheep in the nightmare realm and with people in the real world, you often have choices in conversation and it usually has to do with life, cheating, or women. Your meter reflects your choices in these conversations and affects the outcome what your character thinks at certain points in the game and also the end of the game. Also, there are characters that live or die depending on what you say to them throughout the course of the game. By the time you get to the last two areas, you start to see who did or didn't make it. I only managed to save three people, but I'm not sure out of how many, there are definitely at least six people that you may save.
Story Pt.2- The story is presented in an anime influenced graphic style, but the game also presents it's cutscenes (most of them that is) in Anime. I'm a fan of anime, and the older Atlus games, so I loved the art style and the anime cutscenes, but if you don't like Anime or a graphic style that looks similar to other Atlus titles, such as Shin Megami Tensei or the newer Personas, then you probably wouldn't be able to get past the style, because it's pretty strong in both regards. The characters are likable and realistic. A lot of the them have large flaws in their character and it makes it easier to immerse yourself in the world of Vincent. Vincent himself is pretty flawed, but you can choose which way to go with his thoughts and actions. All of the voice acting is top notch and there are few voice actors that I recognize from Anime, like Roy Mustang- Full Metal Alchemist. The storyline get's absolutely crazy near the end of the game, but awesome. It has you battling a great demon of some kind and it feels like an epic battle between humanity and the gods (that's not a spoiler). One cool thing that the dev's did to make your choices feel a little more universal, was to add an online tracker that shows you how other players reacted to a question. At the end of each safe area, you enter a confessional, and in the confession you get asked a question. After you answer the question it shows you how other players answered on their first playthrough. It seemed silly at first, but some of the questions get pretty serious and complicated later on, which makes other players answers really interesting to see.
The entire game is really about choosing between two women and I'm so glad that it wasn't that simple. Sure the main emphasis is on Catherine and Katherine, the two main women that Vincent must choose between, but there is so much story with the many side characters. A lot of the story is pretty interesting and once you get halfway through the game then you will likely feel involved in Vincent's plight. It helps that the story is relate-able to just about anyone, whether it's Vincent's story or one of the other characters. While the gameplay seems simple, it get's complicated and very challenging. By the end of the game I didn't mind that there wasn't different types of gameplay other than the tower/stair climbing mode. The length of this game is pretty decent, 10-20 hours + the Babel and Coliseum mode. This is a hard game to purchase for $60, but if it ever goes on sale then I highly recommend it, as long as you aren't put off by the style.
Presenation 9.5- The story is long and filled with side stories. All of the stories are well done and interesting. Menu's are simple and easy to use.
Graphics 8.5 -Graphics and anime cut scenes are pleasant, but the in game graphics are definitely not top of the line. Background environments are gorgeous.
Sound 9.5 -Excellent music and voice acting, top notch. A few repeated sounds were a bit annoying, but you do get used to it.
Gameplay 8.5 -Great core gameplay, I just wish there was something a bit more other than the one mode. Very difficult game.
Length of Play 8.5 -The game warrants a second playthrough and it boasts two extra modes.
Violent Score: 9
Thanks for reading
-Written by Sean Cargle