After now being an official VR player for a little over a year now…I have to admit that I am never worried about the gimmick of it all wearing off or becoming stale over time. Every single game that I’ve played has it’s own appeal, it’s own ‘awe factor’, and it’s own share of surprises as you progress forward. It truly is a one of a kind experience, and I have yet to get tired of seeing the technology evolve (quite literally) right before my eyes!
However…”Afterlife” for the PSVR…this short, mostly ‘experimental’ game…really sort of did a number on me. With a creepily dramatic theme and realistic presentation, it was extremely easy to find yourself lost in the immersive landscape that “Afterlife” has to deliver. And the overall feel of what was taking place lingered on within me, even after the game was over.
While this is more of an interactive experience than it is an actual ‘game’, the tagline of “Don’t Forget To Play” is presented to each gamer to let them know to keep focused on what’s going on, as you will have to engage in some (albeit minimal) parts of the storytelling in order to move things forward. So pay attention. Hehehe!
And now…to the seriously dark idea behind the story itself…
WHAT?!?! What did you expect? It’s the Halloween issue, for goodness sakes!!!
The story of “Afterlife” begins with a loving family, two parents, an older girls, and a young boy named Jacob. You play the roll of Jacob. When you begin the cinematic experience, placing you right there in the room with the actors themselves…you will only have about 90 seconds of joy before things go South for you. Young Jacob, unfortunately…tragically…is being given a bath, and is only left alone for a few seconds before his playful antics cause him to slip and fall and hit his head in the bathtub. And he doesn’t survive the accident.
Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. It’s the actual premise of the game. You are, basically, the ghost of a dead child.
As the opening credits roll, and you begin to realize what has actually happened to you…the game immediately becomes an unsettling journey, as your childlike spirit can only bear witness to the heart-wrenching ‘falling apart’ of your family. You are unable to contact them, unable to touch them, unable to let them know that you’re even there. And you’re forced to stand by and watch as depression and denial ravages them from the inside out as they attempt to move on.
However…while you are forced to remain an observer throughout most of the game (Which only lasts about 35 to 45 minutes in total), there are certain moments of emotional intensity when the game will highlight certain objects in the room with one of the other characters…and you will be able to ‘move’ them with your controller. Effectively haunting members of your family in some attempt to let them know you’re there.
It seems like a cool thing to do at first…but eventually makes you more uneasy as you have to watch your own mother break down, again and again, as no one will believe that the paranormal activity ever happened…trying to convince her to grieve and eventually let go of your memory.
When you do something to let her know that you’re watching over her…are you making things better? Or worse?
“Afterlife” is a game that really touched me for some reason. And while it’s much more of a drama than some sort of horror or supernatural thriller, it’s something that will definitely stick with you, long after it’s over. It’s a story about pain, and grief, and also about healing after a tragedy of epic proportions. Both for the main characters, and the spirit of the boy himself. The game IS short, and the acting won’t win any Oscar nominations…but it’s definitely done well enough to keep you engaged in the story from beginning to end. There is also a ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ element to it, where looking at which character you want to follow or stay in the room with, creates a different path that could potentially lead to a different ending when you’re done. So, once you finish….go back and see where the other choices might bring you.
I would definitely recommend giving this title a look if you wanted to dive into the middle of a dramatic experience. Like I said, a lot of this feels like a really well crafted experiment in VR to see what might be possible in the near future with something a bit more lengthy with more interaction. But the price tag is cheap at about five bucks, and I think it was worth it.
So, if you’re not for jump scares, killer clowns, and monsters under the bed…but still wanted a few chills for your Halloween night? Give “Afterlife” a try! It’s an emotional peek into the lives of a family who are dealing with horrors past.