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Bar Harbor
Korsakovia is a Half-Life 2 mod developed by It's an arty game, more about inducing emotion than interesting gameplay. The protagonist is "Christopher", who is (probably) suffering from Korsakoff's syndrome, which is a bit like the problem the protagonist of Memento has, only even more extreme/scary, with an extra dose of "trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy". I say that he is *probably* such a person, because Christopher's own point of view is very different, literally. The world he sees is not the world that his doctor describes -- she herself is never seen, but is only a voice in his head. Of course, the reason that he doesn't see her may be because he is actually blind, and just imagining what he sees. One of the early lines in the game, which is a good enough example of the atmosphere that they used it for a tagline on their website: "The paramedics report that they were unable to find his eyes. We think he may have eaten them."

On an audio level, this mod is extremely good. Haunting music, and well-written and performed (and often post-processed) dialogue. In both themes and production values, this reminds me of The Path, and I would recommend it to the same audience.

Unfortunately, audio is the only aspect that lives up to that standard. Level design is much less impressive. There are many repetitious and confusing areas. There are many repetitious and confusing areas. There are many repetitious and confusing areas -- though to some extent, this is clearly deliberately in support of the themes and emotions they are exploring.

There is combat, some interesting, some infuriating. The primary enemies are floating balls of black smoke, which are very scary in both image and audio. They can be beaten to death, but only if you have a weapon -- which for long periods of the game you don't, so you run in terror. Sadly, there is a variant enemy which has the same creepy sounds -- but *no* visuals, and no apparent way to damage it. Invisible, unkillable enemies are Not Fun. The only way to deal with them is to move fast and far enough that they lose track of your location, which often conflicts with what you're trying to accomplish in a given level.

One (net) positive gameplay aspect is the way the flashlight works. Much of the game is quite dark, and you need the flashlight to navigate. But it's not very reliable; frequently flickering and going out. It's trivial to relight it, but the momentary darkness is scary -- sometimes there's actually a monster in it, or the light fails in the middle of a combat. This adds to the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

The visual art in general is quite poor. Many assets are clearly lifted directly from HL2. The narrative actually integrates this fairly cleverly, though. Christopher's mental illness seems to have incorporated a post-apocalyptic fantasy into his world-view, perhaps actually inspired by HL2. (Though he must have played a console version, since televisions are important symbols to him, while computer screens are not.)

There are some areas of interest to the visuals. There are a number of things which would generally be considered rendering bugs, but which are deliberately used here in order to produce disorientation and alienation in the player.

Observation: in the game universe, psychotic breaks are invariably accompanied by jumping puzzles. I don't know why this is so, but it is what I see. Max Payne, Batman: Arkham Asylum, American McGee's Alice, and now Korsakovia. The worst of these have jumping puzzles with moving parts under combat stress. Korsakovia goes even further, by making some of that combat stress be the aforementioned invisible, unkillable monsters. I resorted to cheats to get through several sections.

Final analysis: If you're interested in arty games, or games which play with the player's perception and emotions, it's worth checking out the first level of this game, and perhaps going a small distance into the second. But the obnoxious gameplay prevents me from recommending going further.

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Thank you for this review. It isn't anything I was likely to play anyway, and less so now, but interesting to read about it.

This adds to the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

When the D stands for Disemboweling!

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