There has been quite an influx in indie games coming out of Spain lately as part of the PlayStation Talents initiative. As with most indie games, you have to look at them with a different eye than you would with a marquee release given the budgetary and staffing limitations. We often find ourselves giving a little more weight toward the developers’ overall intentions of the game, while maybe giving them a little leeway on the overall execution.
That being said, Madrid-based BlackChiliGoat Studio, put a lot of heart into Tape: Unveil the Memories, delivering a fairly well-written story with solid presentation and innovative concepts, only to be weighed down with less-than-optimal gameplay mechanics that leave things a bit frustrating.
Tape: Unveil the Memories tells the story of a young girl named Iria who lives with her mother in the town of Antumbria in the 1990’s. One night when Iria’s mother is working late, the girl discovers a mysterious VCR tape with instructions for her to play it. On the TV she sees a grainy imager of her father – a famous horror movie director who has been missing for some time – pleading for her help. This begins a twisted nightmarish journey in Iria’s mind where things aren’t always what they seem to be.
There’s no question that BlackChiliGoat are fans of classic horror films given the eerie B-movie style FMV scenes, and the plethora of vintage slasher VCR tapes and Fangoria-like magazines to be found amongst the scenery of the abandoned hospital in which most of Iris’ story takes place. Tape: Unveil the Memories is an undeniable homage to the golden age of 70’s and 80’s slasher film culture, and it really provided me with feeling of nostalgia for something and sometimes I didn’t realize I was even nostalgic for.
Most of the gameplay consists of exploration – looking for clues that might lead Iria to her father. These clues are hidden amongst the notes, photos, and items that Iria uncovers as she wanders the empty hallways and rooms in the large hospital. Each area has a series of puzzles to be solved to move to the next area, many of which require the use of Iria’s father’s Super8-style camera that has the ability to manipulate time in three ways – pause, fast forward, or reverse.
The camera is generally used to move certain objects that for some reason or another have been deemed movable by manipulating time – which is indeed kind of confusing as to why some objects are movable and not others, but that’s exactly what we have here. Thankfully the game highlights any objects that can be manipulated within the camera’s viewfinder. The camera can also briefly pause movement – keeping automatic doors open or freezing the game’s one and only enemy: The Monster.
The monster is this massive laser cyclops-like creature that lumbers around certain rooms on the hunt for our heroine. Sensitive to sound and movement, and pretty much indestructible to any attack, Iria must be completely still and silent whenever the monster slunks into in the room. If spotted, Iria’s only defense is to run like hell and try to put as much distance as possible between her and the monster, hoping to have him lose interest (which he will). It’s a tense situation for sure, that is made only more tense by the stiff and wonky control mechanics that make maneuvering Iria a real pain under pressure.
Tape: Unveil the Memories plays from a first-person viewpoint, and the controls just don’t seem like they were polished for play using a controller. You ever had a nightmare where you’re being chased and you can’t run, or you can’t pick up a weapon or open a door? Well, welcome to Tape: Unveil the Memories. Movement just feels too stiff and plodding, and simple tasks like grabbing door handles and picking up objects requires precise character alignment that the game’s controls often make difficult to achieve. And even when you do line up correctly, the animations for grabbing objects are painfully slow. All of this only seems to get worse when the monster is hot on your tail. Thankfully this doesn’t happen all that often and most of the time the controls aren’t that critical.
Like I mentioned earlier, we tend to give a little leeway to indie game developers because their projects are generally infinitely more personal to them than the big-budget blockbusters are to their army of developers. It is more than apparent that BlackChiliGoat put a lot of heart and effort into Tape: Unveil the Memories, and the result is a solid survival horror game that delivers a good narrative despite the wonky controls.
Of all the PlayStation Talents games that have come across my desk in the past few months, Tape: Unveil the Memories definitely sits toward the top of the list.