The new choose-your-own-adventure horror game, the quarry, is a creation for which its work has been done. It comes from previous Supermassive Games releases like the beloved Until sunrise and the enchanting but inconsistent The Dark Pictures Anthology† The game developer has built a reputation for leaning in front of the movie and getting more and more elaborate, with each new entry blurring the lines between games and movies. Most central to that is how they openly draw on the horror genre, both in terms of atmosphere and narrative conventions, which can get quite interesting if taken in their own unique direction. All this brings us to their most recent work the quarry wearing his influences up his sleeve to mixed results. It tells a story mainly set at a summer camp, as a group of unwitting camp counselors want to go home alone because circumstances force them to stay one last night. Despite warnings not to go out and stay in for safety, they soon become entangled in escalating horror situations that many of them may not survive.
It all becomes an exploration of the genre’s archetypes, finding both humor and horror as you choose the path. There are a large number of reference points of scream until Evil Dead and even a little The cabin in the woods crossed with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre scattered everywhere. Some of this is due to the horror icon casting of the aforementioned movies David Arquette and Ted Raimi both play supporting roles. Indeed, the presence Raimi has is one of the stronger parts of the game as he gives one of the better voice acting renditions which is also part of the best mid-range where everything starts to kick into high gear. The rest of the game, especially some early setup after the prologue, can still be a lot of fun, while getting distracting at times. Like Until sunrise, the characters are standard approximations to well-known teenage horror tropes. There’s a himbo with a heart of gold, a shallow influencer, a wimpy wallflower, the cringey comic relief and a responsible rule follower. There are petty quarrels, a love triangle and a game of truth or dare. If you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you’ve seen all this before.
This can often get stuck in patterns of mundaneness, making it more of a riff on the superior horror works it sprang from than a separate journey that really stands on its own. But for every more mundane aspect, there’s also a more charming core that comes out often enough to make it work. It all marks a major turning point for the studio returning to its roots Until sunrise while it is also something in itself. This new direction makes the story much shorter and the characters more toned down with the cinematic feel more central. Kills are executed better, sequences are better constructed, and escalations have more impact. Especially the moment when the prologue reconnects with the main story proves to be the most compelling, even if it is low-key. It is patient in how it plays out via flashback, setting the stakes with a sinister and growing terror. Whether the answers it provides will work for you depends on how willing you are to make the leap into the more monstrous. It becomes an intriguing turning point in the story, a surprising climax that changes and improves everything that goes on in the rest of the adventure.
It should be noted that this middle connective tissue is the least reference heavy and the least like a video game. This is part of what makes it the best part of the whole experience as it is most grounded in its own world. It has well-written dialogue and characters that don’t feel like amalgamating other things, allowing the cutscenes to play out without cutting out too much. For those looking for more quick-time events (QTE) in your game, this is definitely the slowest point, though it’s an integral part of the story. When it picks up the pace after that, it also dives back into more about tribute than completely unique horror. It can often get away with this with knowing lines that acknowledge its creative inspirations, such as when characters humorously say, “We’re not in a movie” or, “This isn’t a ghost story, it’s a creature feature.” wink helps to forgive much of its unoriginal character, there’s still the unshakable feeling that you’ve seen all this before. While it’s not put together exactly like that, the pieces have all been scattered and now merged into a Frankenstein game monster. This makes for an experience that is both thrilling and tedious, a cocktail of cinematic chaos that sparkles on the many bright spots.
Whether this is what you’re looking for depends on your frame of reference. If you’re looking for more expansive gameplay, the quarry is rather light on that while still offering flashes of excitement. It’s much more story-driven and even has a movie mode where you can choose how you want it all to play out. This is when a video game basically ends and even more so a movie begins, although that option of flexibility is a welcome one.
What eventually becomes the most integral part of being a game is the litany of different endings. Far too many pick-your-own-adventure stories are set where you have a limited number of paths with choices that don’t carry much weight. There are parts of that at the beginning of the quarry because decisions have largely the same result with only minor changes. However, towards the various finals, you discover that you can get wildly different outcomes. None are badly written, as they all get explosive and captivating in their own way. This is where the full potential of the narrative experience is realized, as it is able to move in unique directions beyond mere reference. Be it visceral or victorious, it is the last creative deviations where it transcends the limitations of its reference points.
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