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Monday, June 21, 2021

Review: Our Church and Halloween RPG Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 (Sony PlayStation 4)


Review by Matt S.

I don't know if any of you have seen the Chick Tract Dark Dungeons comic book. It's pretty old now (published in 1984), but as I was growing up it did the rounds every so often at school because it is unhinged. Like genuinely, bona fide, frighteningly psychopathic stuff. Back then it was also hilarious because it was mind-meltingly dumb and worked beautifully as comedy, though I didn't really know that the whole Chick Publications thing was a hate group and I wasn't buying into it so the fact that it is an evangelical grift didn't really bother me. Nowdays I realise that it's not really funny because of how dangerously earnest those people are.

Anyhow, I bring it up here because Chick Tracts were pretty hardcore against the whole RPG thing, and in that context Breakthrough Gaming is amusing me because they're trying to preach to players via RPGs here. Now, in fairness to Breakthrough Gaming, I don't think these people are a malevolent hate group that just happen to produce ridiculously funny comic books. They seem rather innocent, right down to (and I kid you not) a Geocities-worthy website. You can never be entirely sure that there isn't malevolence at play with Christian "entertainment," of course, but I think these guys are in the clear insofar as that is concerned. These games, however, freshly minted on PlayStation 4, are an absolute grift.

Each of these "games" are lucky to be 20 minutes long, and yes, I do realise that they're also all of a dollar to buy, but the real problem here is that these games have no worth whatsoever. In the first chapter, some boy is suffering angst over some people dying, so he decides to descend into the underworld and complete some kind of ritual to revive them. Things predictably don't go well (Christian lesson #1: Only God gets to bring dead people back), and the rest of the vignettes-that-pass-for-games are all about dealing with the ramifications of that first action. Except that they're all so shallow that they fail on every level; as narrative, as Christian lecture, and a piece of entertainment. 

(This isn't my video, but I feel absolutely no concerns with sharing the entire game - yes, it's 10 minutes - of this thing to save you from paying for it)


So, here's the thing. I'm not inherently opposed to religious texts. I'm actually quite the fan of The Pilgrim's Progress - a masterpiece of allegory with some truly vivid and imaginative storytelling to share. I've read through Dante's Inferno multiple times and find it a beautiful piece of writing. Even that Footprints In The Sand poem, as laboured as it is, works (and is worth study) as a bit of emotional manipulation. I'm comfortable enough in who I am that being preached at doesn't bother me, and Christian texts often hold interesting moral and philosophical discussion points within them.

But these games from Breakthrough certainly aren't vivid, intelligent or in any way interesting. They read like they're the product of a kid with RPG Maker and no patience to learn how to do it properly, nor any interest in learning how to write the kind of stories that will get people thinking. Furthermore, of course they have no meat to them that makes them worth playing in any other way, either. The first one, despite being an "RPG" features nothing but one puzzle (bump into blocks in the right order), and that's it. Later games introduce combat elements or more nuanced maze-like puzzles at least, but none of it is good on any level whatsoever, and it's still presented 20 minutes per chapter. There's only so much depth you can get out of such limited run-time. 

Perhaps most gallingly, though, the developers have used an aesthetic that I love, and that's why I actually played the things in the first place. I wouldn't say that Our Church and Halloweed have good Game Boy graphics by any means, but it does use that monochrome aesthetic, and I'll play anything that does that. I used to convert all the graphics in my RPG Maker projects to this aesthetic for much the same reason - I just love games that are made that way. Perhaps I should sell my things on PlayStation too, given that Sony seems to be cool with this now. They were also terrible, barely function games. 

(Here's the full walkthrough for the second one)

Anyhow, I digress. To come back to where I talk about the grift. The grift here is that each of these titles offer platinum trophies that can be "earned" with no effort required whatsoever. You'll sit through a laboured and completely ineffective 10-20 minute sermon on nonsense, play it through a couple of times to meet all its conditions, and then you'll get your trophy. I don't know if anyone still actually cares about those things, but as pathetic as it is as selling point for a pathetic series of games, it actually works. If these games didn't annoy me so much I'd be making a joke about how Sony's allowing hardcore Christian content onto the same platform where they've turned into puritans over anime boobs. 

Our Church and Halloween RPG Chapter 1

 - ZERO

Our Church and Halloween RPG Chapter 2

 

Our Church and Halloween RPG Chapter 3


Our Church and Halloween RPG Chapter 4



- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb


Review: Our Church and Halloween RPG Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 (Sony PlayStation 4)
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