The scorn feels as if it teeters on the dirt-covered ledge between “intriguing” and “deliberately ugly.” Within an hour or so playing the game—its opening section which is completely non-tutorial—I got to know the truly unpleasant biotech environment, demonstrating how the many opaque puzzles would link together to form elegant chains of wordless storytelling, gently repelling him occasionally as he pushed Beyond the sight of a debt-burdened body into the horror of a less impressive straight body.
The essence of contempt is in the riddles. You may play from an FPS perspective, and at times offer you what looks like weapons, but this is a mind game at its core. Opening with your enigmatic main character literally ripping herself out of her seemingly living landscape, the scorn gives no indication on screen of what to do, or how anything works, leaving you wandering the gently undulating corridors of her world, sometimes putting your hands in a horrific state. Just bid to see what will happen.
To Skorn’s credit, this self-directed approach works well. Quickly, you are provided (well, wildly implanted) with equipment that allows you to manipulate biotech machines, leaving you to try to figure out the purpose of which ones. Then the player is drawn to one puzzle – open that big door – which you slowly realize, in fact, consists of several smaller puzzles that must be linked together.
Contempt – 10 shots
These range from the strangely familiar (one puzzle about retrieving a huge, disgusting egg from a wall is actually quite simple). sliding puzzle in disguise) for the really weird (one department used what looked like a bolt gun to destroy floating steam-spouting machines trying to feed a huge column?). It’s a very elegant way to connect the gameplay to the world and vice versa – and the combination of laissez-faire design and very unfamiliar locations makes it a fun challenge to solve.
The skorn story seems to be intentionally left as blank as its puzzle solutions – I imagine interpreting this world would require as much mental effort as the gameplay – but we are clearly in a terrible location that has become even more terrible for seed. For the most part, it’s wonderfully unique in terms of gaming, an ode worthy of the likes of Cronenberg, Giger, and maybe even Junji Ito.
On one occasion, I felt it approaching something like torment; Adopt a more cheerful and voyeuristic mood. Without giving too much away about the solution, the primary puzzle in this opening area centers on using an almost fetus-like figure as a means of escape. Your miles may vary, but having to smear them over and over again—watching them writhing, screaming, and wordlessly begging you to stop—was nothing like intrigue and more provocative to me. I was shocked, but not in the way I expected from what seemed to be an exercise in quiet, creepy horror.
I’d be very interested to see how much of a part of the broader game becomes this overt blues, not least because it completely changes the mood created by its other puzzles. At its best, Alscorn does indeed seem like a very strange and deeply thought-out approach to a more open-ended puzzle, perhaps easily comparable to The Witness. Personally, that’s what I hope to see more of – but if you’re looking for a dose of real loathing, it looks like you’ve got it covered there too. Balance between these two aspects will be the key to its success.
Joe Scripps is the executive news editor at IGN. follow him Twitter. Do you have a tip for us? Want to discuss a potential story? Please send an email to email@example.com.
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