Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


Twin Sector (2010, PC, Germany): Portal, Oh How We Love Thee
August 5, 2010, 3:46 am
Filed under: Twin Sector (PC, 2010, Germany)

Derivative? Check. Average graphics? Check. A development team of maybe a dozen German or Russian or Ukranian folks? Check. Rather clunky localization? Check.

It’s well known that I am a GRADE A sucker for these types of games.

Of course, poor little old “Twin Sector” will be mercilessly judged under the massive shadow of “Portal,” the truly awe-inspiring physics-based shooter-puzzler from Valve–so good it actually made me laugh and cry. I could whine and complain such a comparison isn’t fair, but frankly what other frame of reference could you use to describe “Twin Sector?” It’s like an homage to Portal, or an incredibly poor rip-off sans Portal’s humor, characters, and mystique. Most web reviews of this game lean HEAVILY in this direction.

But I prefer to go with homage instead, just because I liked this little game. I fear I might be the only one though…

You play an athletic gal (Ashley) who has bunkered down in an underground government-sanctioned cryosleep lab with thousands of other “top tier” specimens of the human race. You see, the surface of the planet (which you never get to see in game btw) has been destroyed (gasp! say it isn’t so!) by some unnamed disaster, and going into cryo to be awakened and reclaim the planet at a (much) later date is the only way the human race will survive. Problem is, as the game commences, you alone have been prematurely awakened by the computer (with no frame of reference to know how long you’ve been asleep at this point, and you are suffering from complete amnesia due to cryosleep side-effects) to help fix a malfunction that will be killing off hundreds of sleepers unless you do something NOW! Oh my! This requires you finding anti-grav gloves, putting them on, taking directions from the AI computer that runs the place, and crawling through endless hallways / ducts / vents / rooms / tubes / cages / shafts to push buttons, remove obstacles, turn valves–all the while dodging a variety of security systems that for some reason the AI has lost complete control of. In fact, as the narrative progresses, it seems as though someone–or some THING–has purposely sabotaged some of the core systems in order to kill those poor sleeping souls. But who? There’s no one down here except the sleepers! Right? And hence, the mystery…

I don’t know about you, but the sheer cliched nature of this sci-fi setup makes me SCREAM IN SHEER DELIGHT AS I LOAD IT UP AND GRAB MY CONTROLLER. I’m serious. I did say I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, right? How could you not go gaga over this? Seriously. Running around a dark, labyrinthine, completely deserted underground cryosleep facility in the future with an AI companion telling you what to do with a clock ticking constantly in the background? Give me more of this now. I will never tire of this kind of dynamic. Never. It’s semi-scary sci-fi fun with a narrative mystery that promises to be revealed by game’s end–all in first-person perspective. What’s not to love?

Well, there’s quite a bit not to love actually. The AI computer giving you directions where to go and what to do TRIES desperately to have a kind of semi-quirky, dysfunctional GlaDOS personality, but it doesn’t work (mostly because the English localization is sorta stinky, as is par for these imports). The anti-grav gloves (or whatever they are called–your major tool in getting through the game and solving environmental challenges) which pull and push objects of great density, TRY to behave in a similar fashion to the Portal’s “portal gun” (or frankly more like HL2’s “gravity gun”), but it doesn’t really work either. They often fail, requiring you to do the same task repeatedly, leading to frustration. (And, oh my god, this is especially true in a few areas of the game where you must perform tasks in reduced gravity–you want to talk about frustration!) Or worse, if you use the gloves to push or pull your body to great heights or to cushion a crazy-high fall (which is sometimes the solution to your predicament and is actually kinda cool), a faulty manuever leads to a falling death…repeatedly. Additionally, the gloves also are supposed to work as your weapons, shooting environmental objects at the various security measures (turrets, etc.) trying to take you down (sound familiar?–I did not say this was original). Again, when the gloves fail to perform properly, more death, death, death. Beyond the glove problems, the full-motion-video animations during cutscenes are super stiff. The characters are half-realized (though not without effort on the part of the writers and actors involved), and the voiceovers are weak and often unfocused.

But gosh darn it, I liked this game. I guess it’s just because I am predisposed to see the merit in these underdog titles that no one else likes. Dunno why. I guess what I see behind all the half-realized physics and chugging graphics are devs who are so inspired by something like Portal and feel compelled to pay homage to something like this by creating their own unique version of it–almost like a student-revision of a masterpiece–but also with some original stuff thrown in for good measure. I appreciate it. That doesn’t mean it is a good game, and it is not for most people.

But as I played, I was swayed enough by the setup (and the used, worn, semi-wrecked technological environments; the simple tasks; the feeling of accomplishment at solving a particularly confusing environmental puzzle; the sense of urgency in parts; and the sincerely creepy sense of danger in parts) that I was pulled forward, immersed in the story and wanting to know what would happen. Would I save all those sleeping people or not? Who the hell–or WHAT the hell–was possibly sabotaging all this gear? How could anyone survive down here having not been placed in a cryotube? I won’t spoil the answers to those questions, but the final reveal provided me with one of those sincere headshaking “I’ll be damned” moments when all was said and done. And THAT is no small feat. (Oh, and the final boss battle–ugh.)