Au Sable (PC)

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Sable — at least I think that’s the character’s name, I don’t know for sure there’s no clarification — is um… adventuring. Well the story in the readme says that she looking for the lost city of Harmonia. Unarmed and unarmored but accompanied by the two eyes of a god, she will do anything to reach the sunken fortress.

History

Another Benjamin Braden game, another nightmare. You might remember him as the creator of All of Our Friends are Dead — my review in the link. Braden, known online as Amon26, has made several games based on his intense and vivid nightmares. Giving anyone the opportunity to take a walk through these sinister dreams and finally fight back against the monstrous beasts that haunt the dark corners of his mind.

Au Sable was released in November 2009. It’s competition was Braid (PSN), Left 4 Dead 2 (PC and XBox 360), and Assassin’s Creed 2 (PS3 and XBox 360).

Experiences

Now, it’s unfair to compare games… but I’m gonna do it anyway. And this is for October’s spookiness so which game is scarier? It’s a tough thing to judge because they’re so similar but AoOFaD has a much more terrifying and ineffable world. The rough animation of the bosses and uknowable nature of the situation is pretty frightening. That being said, Au Sable seems like there’s some sort of grand design. It’s not just a nightmare, it’s a nightmare with a story. There’s something to be lost, it’s not just a bizarre hellscape. The monsters of Au Sable seem to be connected to something instead of just monsters for monsters sake, and they look more purposefully designed. In the end I would say that AoOFaD is truly scarier but that Au Sable is the superior game.

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They’ve both got mysterious text but Sable has identifiable objects.

Gameplay

Au Sable is a pretty simple action platformer. You can move, jump, and eventually get the ability to fire weapons. There’s really not much to it. You just keep moving until you find the next place to go, sometimes it’s a little easy to get lost. The other main mechanic of the game is that Sable can use the eyes that follow her to activate switches and open doors — it’s quite bizarre that she can’t activate these switches without the assistance of a god.

The Gush

The monsters designs in this game are simply great . The Hunters and other various hellbeasts rival Splatterhouse in grotesqueness. There’s only one boss but their absence is supplemented by incredibly haunting god-like idols. And the enemy placement is superior than AoOFaD, much fewer enemies in places that will blind side you.

I don’t know what these god eyes are but I goddam love them. It’s interesting to be haunted by this greater power but I don’t know if I can trust their influence. I do wish though that I had gotten a greater idea of what they are and why they’ve been sent — I suppose because the deity wants me to continue.

The sound, music, and art do a marvelous job at creating a moody creepy atmosphere that builds a definite sense of dread. A few jump scares get thrown in there for good measure but they’re not so intense that they overwhelmed me.

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The tentacle pursuit scene scared the hell out of me.

The Kvetch

The shotgun and machine gun are pretty good weapons but what sucks is that the standard configuration of the game comes with no cross-hair. Braden did it to represent her unfamiliarity with the weapon. I think that’s a really interesting idea but it makes the game very difficult to play. Perhaps the cross-hair becoming more opaque the more monsters she defeats would create a gradual difficulty curve, and strike a good balance between themeing and gameplay ease. Thankfully the cross-hair can be enabled by pressing the backspace key.

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Seriously, shooting without the cross-hair is damn near impossible.

I heard something about multiple endings but I have no idea how to find anything but the one I keep getting. I’ve also heard that the most recent version of the game makes it impossible to unlock it… and that would suck. This is all hearsay because I couldn’t verify it myself but if this is the case then that’s a serious oversight.

The Verdict

Au Sable is a decently fun and compact game. I was able to beat it in a mere 30 minutes but I had a helluva time. Like all of the games in this series so far, Au Sable is totally free and available to download on the independent game wiki. It’s a nice way to spend 30 minutes getting absolutely spooked this Halloween season.

Next Week: Dungeon Defender

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