Can someone call Mojang? I think Minecraft is feeling a little down in the dumps. It seems really preoccupied with the death, and it won’t stop reading me its slam poetry. Wait, just kidding! I’ve actually been playing This Strange Realm of Mine by Doomster Entertainment, which came out in 2015 for Windows and Mac, but was recently ported to the Nintendo Switch on 16.4.2020.
Okay, it isn’t quite fair to write this game a moody Minecraft (though the textures are spot-on). Not only does TSRoM blend 90’s FPS gameplay with hints of platforming and sides scrolling, but it also offers a brain-busting story and emotionally challenging cast of characters. If this game sounds a little scattered, that’s because it is. But what makes it special to me is that after a while, I wasn’t in it for the gameplay. It was enough just to be immersed in this weird, honest world, forced to face all the game’s mental baggage.
At first glance, This Strange Realm of Mine presents itself as a retro first-person shooter similar to Doom of Wolfenstein. You run around collecting health and ammo packs, capping enemies and solving puzzles on a journey through several levels. It incorporates psychological elements of horror and delivers all this via pixelated gore. But the simplicity halts after the tutorial.
You’re quickly introduced to Tavern Limbo, a relaxing hub world in which you are told be a spirit guide/bartender that you are dead. From here, you leave the tavern to wrestle with the demons you faced in life, making friends along the way. You can even choose to bring them back to the tavern, where they will chill with you between future missions.
The tone varies wildly. Between levels, in Tavern Limbo, you can interact with characters you may invite along the way. This was one of my favourite parts of the game, as every friend you make has something new to talk about between levels. One character, simply known as Rat, has an arsenal of poems to show you, tracking their battle with depression as the game marches on. But, whenever you exit to explore a new level, you never know what’s waiting on the other side. The game places heartwarming, funny levels back-to-back with some really creepy scenes. When the developers try to be funny, they nail it with witty environmental gags, such as a gang of rats in the first level who has covered the city in graffiti consisting of rat-based humour. Conversations with characters can be sincere and touching, or downright horrifying.
The most shocking part about this indie game is its incredibly short runtime. My game took less than eight hours, and I died on multiple occasions. And for those who enjoy it as me, this makes it perfect for trying other decisions or just re-experiencing the magic. If you are looking for a quick, self-contained story, this is definitely the game for you. And if you’re like me, as soon as you’re finished, it will reel you back in.
This game’s high replayability is found in its ending “verdicts.” Depending on how you play the game, you will receive one of five different verdicts. There are also a variety of achievements that reflect your behavior as well as accomplishments, such as exploring obscure areas in the levels. After completing the twisted finale, I quickly found myself wanting to try a new path. And while the first-person shooter style of most of the level doesn’t have a lot of nuances, there are moments in which the game changes the gameplay, such as allowing you to steer vehicles. There’s even a hilarious moment in which an astronaut states you must “shift to a lower dimension” to traverse an asteroid belt, and suddenly you’re playing a 2D arcade game.
Despite all these strengths, this is not a perfect game. The first person shooting is extremely uninteresting, with a lack of weapons, enemies, and explorable maps. With only the first level offering me any difficulty whatsoever, I sometimes felt like I was just waiting for the game to introduce me to the next character.
Another problem I had was patience for the game’s philosophy. I played this game in two long sessions, but if I could go back, I would have broken that up simply because I found myself skipping some dialogue. Everything is so deep to every character all the time, and the story gets bogged down in semantics. I can only deal with so much existential dread at once, Doomster.
At first, I found the graphics to be a little bland, and even silly considering the tone and how closely they resemble Minecraft’s. In fact, even piano music reminds me of the peaceful overworld tunes in Minecraft. This passed quickly, as Doomster makes the aesthetic it’s own by manipulating the reality of their world in creepy and funny ways, such as transforming a crowd of stalkers into adorable kittens.
It’s hard to describe what makes me love this game so much. On the surface, there isn’t much to the puzzles. The combat is challenging at the first level, but afterwards, you’ll have to crank up the difficulty. The horror aspect is certainly utilized well in a few levels but, it’s far from a horror game. The true power of this game is in its storytelling. Normally, I believe the narrative serves the gameplay. In this case, however, the game uses its dark tone, meaningful characters, and poetry to take the player on a journey. You explore everything from anxiety, to free will, to the inevitable heat death of the universe. At times, this game’s philosophy can be heavy-handed. But at the end of the day, it tells a beautiful story about survival and self-love. I highly recommend This Strange Realm of Mine to anybody in need of a quick game and a lot of emotions.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch Verison of the game.
You can purchase the game here if interested.
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This Strange Realm Of Mine
This Strange Realm Of Mine is a First Person Shooter mixed with Poetry and Psychological Horror. In REALM you explore your afterlife. On your quest you'll find characters in different situations, with their problems and thoughts on life. You can invite them to your tavern, a safe-haven in the midst of all the chaos. You'll also meet Ulrich, a spiritual guide who'll take you through your experience as a lost soul. You'll come across monstrous beings who are eager to put their teeth in you. There are several ways to rid yourself of them, ranging from guns to melee weapons. Be ready to get your hands dirty and watch the blood drip slowly from the roof and walls.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 11.99