Do you have a radar? Does it frequently detect submarines, aircraft of questionable origin, and reruns of bad ’90s sitcoms? Well then, you’ve calibrated it horrendously and should bonk it with a wrench until it picks up exclusively on the only thing that matters: promising-looking videogames. Case in point: The Novelist, a crazy polter-and-geist adventure from Deus Ex: Invisible War, Thief: Deadly Shadows, and BioShock 2 vet Kent Hudson. The basic (and exceedingly interesting) premise reminds me a bit of Gone Home, except the family’s still around, and you don’t play as any of them. Instead, you’re a ghost just going about your typical haunterly business when a troubled novelist and his family show up on your doorstep. You, however, are more Casper than creepy Ring murder child, so it’s your job to observe behaviors, read thoughts, and pour over messages and belongings – all without revealing the fact that you’re, you know, a nightmarish specter from beyond the beyond. Using that knowledge, it’s up to you to manipulate this dysfunctional puzzle into whatever shape you see fit. Trailer after the break.
Yeah, the look’s a bit plain, but the idea is utterly brilliant. Gone Home meets Gamecube potential-squanderer Geist? Yes please. A thousand times yes please. Here’s the ghostly gist, straight from Hudson himself:
“The Novelist asks one central question: can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love? The game focuses on Dan Kaplan, a novelist struggling to write the most important book of his career while trying to be the best husband and father he can be. The Kaplans have come to a remote coastal home for the summer, unaware that they’re sharing the house with a mysterious ghostly presence: you.”
So yes, you have to reshape Dan’s life and career while doing your best to stay underfoot. Or above-foot. Maybe even inside-foot. You’re a ghost. Traditional laws of footness do not apply to you.
Oh, and then there’s this bit, which sounds tantalizingly Ion-Storm-y: “Dan’s relationships – to his work, his wife, and his son – react and shift in response to your choices. With a different sequence of events in every playthrough, The Novelist gives life to a unique experience each time you play.” Oh yes. Oh my yes.
Obviously, I quite like what I’m hearing. But can Hudson actually pull it off? Well, he’s got a very pretty pedigree, but this is an exceedingly ambitious idea for one guy (with assistance from an artist friend, apparently) to tackle. My fingers are, of course, crossed, knotted, and tied in delightful bows, but I can’t even begin to guess how The Novelist will actually turn out. Sure, worst-case scenario, it’s an easy target for headline wordplay (ghastly, a-boo-mination, etc), but there’s no fun in that sort of thing. Only sadness.