Testing testing…is this thing on? Ah greetings Simonites I am your long overdue host returning now that I once again have a computer capable of surfing the interwebs! I finally got toplay the third game in the Strange Men line up, The Boogie Man! One part action, one part puzzle solving, and one part exploration TBM was made using Wolf RPG editor by vaunted game developer Uri. This review contains spoilers for The Crooked Man, The Sandman, and the Boogie Man games each respectively.
The story follows Detective Keith Baring who is at the start of the game forced to go on professional leave to get his head sorted out. Keith comes off extremely unemotional and detached it’s a little bit jarring. He and his wife Helena end up on a tour to a recently renovated old castle (jinkies) for a tour. Which in the world of fiction always goes of perfectly without a single hitch….especially when the other tour guests are….
Helena Baring- Keith’s wife who strangely seems both like a social creature and highly depressed. This is mostly in relation to her plans to have divorce talks with him in the very near future. She is also ridiculously insanely badass. She is in fact so awesome that I halfway want to rewrite my women in gaming post to not only include her but to highlight how ridiculously fantastic she is! Holy shit she’s impressive.
David Hoover- Now I’m going to be perfectly honest I adore David (the protagonist of the crooked man) but if I were a detective who happened to be privy to Davey’s history I not only wouldn’t go to an old castle with him, but I probably wouldn’t even get an ice cream with him. Sorry, tangent….David is a very warm individual who isn’t afraid to fight his own battles, or anyone else’s for that matter. In spite of this being this poor convenience store clerks third romp in these games he still manages to fit #tostupidtolive.
Shirley Webber- David’s wife is loud and outspoken and frankly not very likable, David could totally do better then some chick who abandoned him when he was depressed and that depression literally almost killed him!!!!! However I will be a little gracious and say she and David do serve as good counterpoints to one another, with his soft personality be a foil to her more brash one.
Sophie Grundler- Hey hey the gangs all here and you know what reunion tours mean right? Tragedy with a side helping of death! Sophie, I liked Sophie before she gained a voice, her lines come off so ear piercing though that I genuinely considered letting her get mauled by dogs. Sophie is the protagonist of the Sandman the second game in the series and she is much more assertive now, even at one point scaring the hell out of everyone to look for Helena on her own. Remember becoming more assertive is not always a good thing.
Richard Grundler- Sophie’s dad who is a bit of a workaholic he was rarely home according to the previous game because he believed Sophie didn’t want him around. It seems though that the two of them have cleared the air a bit. Over the course of TBM you see how protective he is of his daughter and he comes off on more then one occasion as a really great dad. He even begs for Keith and Lance (seems weird typing that without bitching about Voltron) to save Sophie even though it will cost him his life. Now there’s a stand up kind of guy.
Lance Kamal- The last actual tourist is Lance. He’s an all new character and he’s not a good guy like David or Richard, he’s not badass like Keith or Helena, but he is a good ally nonetheless. Lance is a sleaze who was willing to sell information to gossip magazines, however when push came to shove he also helped in any facet he could to help save others.
Stevie Small is the groups tour guide, he has a wife back home in Connecticut, but not too much else is known about him.
Brendon Dumont is the current owner of Castle Livingstone. He is also the Boogie Man himself having had faked his own death at the very beginning of the game he spends the majority of the title chasing Helena and mocking the others. He is cold and sinister in the eyes of the Grundlers and mocking and teasing in Keith’s. Quite curious indeed isn’t it?
All these characters are brought together in a fairly standard fare horror fest. Unsuspecting tourist group brought to old castle, people go missing, people start dying, the protagonist plays the big damn hero and saves the majority of people who have names, but loses everyone who doesn’t have character art. And the deaths are gruesome ranging from beheading to slowly bleeding out as the games “tutorial” mission. Its pretty fantastic watching as the whole thing unfolds with not one but two bouts of awesome. One half of this shit is in Keith’s head, a pile of hallucinations if you will, and the second is it was caused by a human this time rather then a monster. The Boogie Man “Brendon” did a ridiculous amount of research into each person coming on this tour so that they would believe that he was indeed the Boogie Man who lives in your closet and under your bed and is always always watching. This is lampshaded by finding crumpled up notes about the detective who was initially supposed to go on this vacation instead of Keith. However all that research left out a few impossible to know things like David Hoover has fought a real life monster before and Sophie has The Sandman watching over her still.
However the two of them being veterans does not mean they are impervious to harm. For that matter both Sophie and David can die and the game will continue on. It will result in a bad ending, but the game will go on. Sophie you have to run from rabid dogs for a full minute (or find the cheat) if her hit points go below 30 she will die from her injuries. If you succeed The Sandman will put the dogs to sleep and Keith and David will break the door down to come to her rescue. David on the other hand gets trapped in a room with poison gas and being the low key badass that he is he breaks through a freaking window to get out and has to climb over barrels of toxic death to get to safety. Even then you still have to get the key in time with Keith and get the door unlocked in time or Davey’s a goner too. Depending on the combinations of deaths you’ve accumulated depends on which bad ending you get thrown in your face. If you fail, god if you fail David pushes Keith out of the toxic death with the last of strength so he doesn’t get trapped in there too. God Dammit Dave stop stealing the show!
Another really cool thing, cool being entirely subjective here, is that both David and Sophie’s horrible deaths occur after you’ve already saved them each once respectfully. It makes them feel safe, I mean no harm will come to them, I already rescued them. It is a beautiful and brilliant play at false security. Sophie’s demise is difficult to trigger honestly, you actually have to work at it to murder her. David though, he’s a different story, there’s a save point between his and Keith’s part of this scenario so if you screw up Davey’s gone. No turning back no two ways about it. I hope you have multiple save files.
To get the good ending you also have to solve a series of puzzles all involving video tapes. You have to find and watch them in order. If you miss one in the like ten minute game window you have for it you can’t go back for that either. It’s these videos that lead you to the conclusion that Helena is without a doubt badass worth saving. She also serves as stark reminder that the damsel can be just as heroic as the actual hero. Everyone of the actual protagonists (sorry Stevie) plays the role of hero at least once in this title. Keith systematically saving everyone, but most notably the first time he saved Sophie, Helena keeping the Boogie Man distracted for honestly what had to have been hours, Sophie going out to find Helena on her own, Richard being ready to die for his daughter, David running through the fire without any hesitation, Shirley becoming the de facto safe room guard, and even Lance’s sleazey ass helping with the manual labor even though he’s injured. Could the cast have made better decisions ‘yes’ but I think aside from Sophie and the bathroom vent they were fairly realistic decisions based on the their respective personalities so I don’t have any serious gripes there.
Ok ok one more thing about the characters before I move on, I promise I’m almost done!!! I read an article recently from Uri’s own hand explaining how each of the games male characters actually represent a different part of Keith’s life. Lance was when he was younger and was terrified of screwing up again. Which is a really cool aspect to draw from him (and to be fair it wouldn’t work if he wasn’t an ass). Richard is from the time when Keith’s son Todd was still alive and he loved and adored his child more then anything . The flashbacks of Keith and his son is freaking amazing, he seems like he was such a great dad! And David not only represents the light of hope (because of course he does) but also what a husband could and should be. I mean this guy literally runs into a raging fire to save his wife because that’s the type of person he is, he is also visibly more worried about Helena then Keith himself appears to be.
The endings are all good (subjective) the happy ending is perfect. The tragic endings are terrible and make you want to die, just like they should. My favorite thing about the true ending is the way the characters talk in the police questioning. Richard figured Brendan out which is amazing, especially when he explains not only his reasoning but why he didn’t say anything as well. Sophie hits hard on continuity saying that she met the real Boogie Man before and his hands were cold and inhuman, this one’s hands were warm. Lance says he owes Keith so he won’t sell this story for money, which is pretty damn cool. David talks about how he was all over that castle with Keith but there was no writing in blood, or phones ringing, he also says though that he doesn’t think Keith was lying because sometimes people just SEE different things. And kicking the shit out of the Boogie Man is sooooooooooo damn satisfying not even joking.
The music is low key and extremely subtle, the voice acting however is a really mixed bag. David is fine when he’s talking not panicking, Helena sounds like a phone sex operator, and Sophie will make your ears bleed. Brendon on the other hand is great he sounds like he wants to steal your Blue Eyes White Dragon #DietEricStuart. Keith does laconic really well not that that’s very hard but it does make the moments of emoting stand out really well.
How are the controls? Two things I consistently hate. I loathe combat in this series and I hate stairs. I especially hate them when I’m rushing up and down stairs on a freaking time limit because you can’t just run up or down it’s literally -> ^ -> ^ -> Argh!!!!!!! It’s so frustrating! Stairs (when in distress) and the one fight in the game aside it plays really smooth. The puzzles can be solved easily with enough wandering in circles and a little bit of experimentation and application. All of it comes together in a very nice (subjective) game that fits together really well. However I will be honest I did not love it with the same passion as the Crooked man. Also I suppose I should mention this game has some truly fantastic nods to continuity. It brings up not only the police report from finding Duke’s body in The Crooked Man, but also that the Sand Man is still watching over Sophie. It’s pretty great continuity.
On a closing note. Good god David!