Saturday 20 January 2018

Games: Misfits, murder and mystery

Persona 5 (PS4/PS3), 5 Stars, Age: 16+

Persona 5
Persona 5
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Blackmail, murder, sexual assault, suicide - these aren't topics routinely touched on in chart-topping videogames. Persona 5 covers this ground (and a hell of a lot more) in a staggeringly deep Japanese RPG spanning more than 100 hours of gameplay.

By turns shlocky, stylish and sensitive, P5 has been nearly a decade in the making. That explains where developer Atlus found the time to stuff it full of memorable characters, dialogue and visuals. Centred on a cast of school-going misfits pursuing a collection of villains in modern Tokyo, it delves into supernatural and surreal worlds that parallel the real city.

J-RPG sceptics will scarcely feel welcome here, the contrivances and melodrama of the genre on full show. Six hours in and you'll have barely raised a hand in anger in the turn-based combat, while clicking endlessly to advance the torrent of dialogue. Sixty hours in and you'll possibly remain bamboozled by P5's complexity, with each main character housing up to eight "personas", or skills, in battle, for instance.

But you don't play Persona for the love of its combat - amusing as it is, particularly in the boss designs. Instead, you come to wallow in its absurd logic, roster of batty personalities, abundance of visual flair and wealth of off-the-wall story.

It feels like a divisive chart-topper, though. Persona 5 will either consume you for months or spit you out within hours.

Stories Untold

(PC) 4 Stars, Age: 12+

Explanations are overrated. Where most new titles force a tutorial on the player, Stories Untold leaves everything to your imagination. This compendium of four retro-styled horror/mystery yarns delights in telling you nothing about its mechanics, instead scattering clues through the interfaces.

The first episode - also available as a free download - plonks you in front of a 1980s-themed text adventure to explore an abandoned house. Breaking the fourth wall and messing with your head may constitute mere parlour tricks but they prove effective at sending a chill down the spine.

Subsequent episodes toy with the manipulation of an array of analogue machines in a lab and a remote monitoring station, each producing chilling results thanks partly to the eerie audio.

The final instalment lacks the punch of what went before, but there's enough ingenuity on show in those initial slices of interactive fiction to wholly justify the €10 price of admission.

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