Game Review: THE QUARRY is a Scary Good Horror Experience
SuperMassive games, creator of The Quarry and Until Dawn, have been hit-or-miss in terms of quality. They’ve had genre defining horror games, like Until Dawn, as well as frustratingly bad releases, like Little Hope. They’ve even had games with interesting ideas and dynamics that, unfortunately, didn’t pan out very well because of how poorly the mechanics are communicated, like in Man of Medan. Fortunately, The Quarry is a quality interactive horror experience — even if it doesn’t quite hit the same highs as Until Dawn.
The gameplay of The Quarry is solid. Even though the game is mostly cutscenes, the actual gameplay is quite solid. It takes the best parts of their last few games (Quick Time Events, the relationship management systems, etc.), and adds new mechanics on top of them (using your flashlight as crosshairs, Mass Effect-style cutscene interruptions) whilst cutting what made their earlier games frustrating to play (setting the controller down, forcing the player to not commit any violent actions whilst something scary was happening). It’s definitely a more refined version of their other games, in terms of actual mechanics.
However, the real meat of the game comes from being able to make your own choices, which the game does very, very well. A lot of the game is just making decisions, from massive moral decisions to smaller, interpersonal choices that determine how the relationships between the characters pan out. You can even intentionally fail Quick Time Events to affect how the story goes. It all leads to a cohesive, narrative focused experience. The only issue is that there are a lot of long-winded segments with no choices, which can make the game feel more like a movie then an interactive narrative experience, at times. There’s also an instance where a character will yell out and ask who’s there, even if you don’t select the “ask who it is” choice. Even though it was just one instance, giving players an unconvincing illusion of choice is a lousy way to make the game seem like it has more choices then it actually does. Small hiccups aside, the gameplay is solid, and it complements the story of the game well.
The game is a visual treat. Like the rest of Supermassive’s games, it focuses on photorealistic graphics to craft an experience that looks a lot like a live action movie. In fact, the game is so dedicated to the “movie” aesthetic, is has a DLC that lets you put filters over the graphics to make it look more like a movie, including black and white filtering. Sometimes the characters’ faces twist into goofy expressions, but that’s the cost of having high quality mocap; every now and again, you capture a “weird face.” The game loves the fact that it has a celebrity cast, from bigger names like Brenda Song (Dads, Amphibia) to “cult favorite actors” like Ted Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man), and it really lets their performances shine via the high quality facial animations and the amazing, hi-fidelity graphics.
The game’s story is good. The premise, while tropey, works surprisingly well, when given to an interactive story medium. Playing as summer camp teenagers who need to survive the supernatural is much more gripping when you can control the teenagers and decide how the drama plays out. While straightforward, the plot has a meta twist that I didn’t see coming, though in retrospect, it was properly foreshadowed (albeit, not much, but I don’t think they could’ve foreshadowed it much more then they did.) The dialogue, while being goofy and very “Scott Pilgrim-esque” (I think they even “borrowed” the infamous “lesbians” joke from Scott Pilgrim), is funny and genuinely charming. Some of the characters are annoying (Emma is, in general, the source of most of the interpersonal issues in the group), but by the end of the game, you do genuinely want to watch them all live and make it out of the game okay.
The gameplay mechanic of “finding evidence” comes into play in a clever way in the credits, with the evidence you found being commented on by podcasters who were mentioned throughout the game. The meta twist of the “narrator” actually being a real, tangible ghost that’s trying to manipulate the player into murdering all her enemies was well handled, and I honestly didn’t see it coming. What IS disappointing is the “where are they now” segment, which is just 3 sentences of text used to describe each of the characters’ final fates. Compared to Until Dawn, which had the characters give interviews defending their decisions and discuss the events of the game, this ending is lackluster. Aside from that, the story is a fun, well paced, interesting romp, with a few good twists.
The Quarry is the best SuperMassive game since Until Dawn. SuperMassive have refined their formula and identified what works while cutting what failed. I’m excited to see if this carries over to their next Dark Pictures Anthology Game, which comes out later this year. The game is a solid 8/10.