I have inadvertently stumbled upon the worst gaming story ever written. I'm not exaggerating. Almost no one will notice, because it's hidden within an obscure indie puzzle game released in Steam's endless churn, amidst a holiday sale, but it will remain such. Perfect Angle [Steam page] looks like a neat little puzzle about rotating obscure 3D shapes until they align to form objects, but somehow sports the most astonishingly dreadful narrative of all time.
If you're British, you'll be familiar with the concept behind Perfect Angle from Channel 4's long-running idents, only recently replaced. The camera would pass through a construction site, or through the desert, or maybe in the woods, and objects would eventually align to depict the Channel 4 logo. Like this:
(Sorry America, your TV channels have never been this cool. And oh gosh, the new C4 idents are even better/stranger.)
That's a puzzle game I want to play. So I did. Except, from the start it became apparent that in order to do so, I'd have to sit through the inane burbling of a disembodied voice saying a slightly different version of the garbage in the subtitles. Of COURSE he's lost his memory, because good bloody grief how could it be anything else? And so he's trapped in some sort of dreamscape, with the puzzles' solutions triggering memories. Except, oh God, I'll get to that in a bit.
The puzzles vary in minor ways, but your control is always the same. You rotate the camera around the objects. Sometimes you can change water levels, rotate pieces, or rotate the entire structure when creating shadow shapes on a wall. And some levels even give you, er, a rocket launcher to blow up pieces in the way. But very quickly, as you get deeper in, you begin to realise that this is the extent of the variety and ho boy, it's not going away. I figured that 50 puzzles should do it, at most. By 65 I was really losing the will to persist and find out where its batshit story was going. In the 70s I looked on the store page, and saw it was "over 100", uttered the words, "Oh fuck this," and started writing this here review.
What's such a shame about the puzzles, beyond those which are simply bad (not very many, but gosh, they're bad), is that what it doesn't do is let you move around the world. And that's even more strange when the transitions between puzzles are the camera swooping down streets and through doors between one and the next, so there was definitely a world built in which one could have moved about. To be able to explore, find the place to stand, much more like in those C4 idents, would have been tremendously more fun. Or at least a pleasant alternative from what become monotonous (sometimes literally) puzzles, repeating the same concepts and locations dozens of times. And even more vulgar, the developers feel the need to shamelessly plug their other games on billboards and posters in the background of almost every puzzle. It's crass and desperate.
But onto the story. I know it's ridiculous to worry about spoilers in a bad game almost no one's heard of, but for the sake of grace I'll not give away this game's barking mad rubbish. It starts off, as I mentioned, with the gruesomely obvious amnesiac opening, and then very quickly makes absolutely incoherent leaps to the narrator concluding he's a terrorist, and something about his missing/dead/alive daughter, a possible absent spouse, and some completely unfathomable gibberish about his memory resetting every 24 hours. Good lord. It handles the terrorism aspect so incredibly poorly, and so hamfistedly, that this isn't just a game that's using a wholly irrelevant topic with no purpose nor flair, but I think actually stretches to being offensive toward terrorists. Terrorists should feel indignant about this game.
The storytelling works on a structure that's like this (but not this):
"My parents have both died in a fire, and that's why I'm in a coma."
"I've remembered that I probably started the fire and killed my parents, but why?"
"Was it the death of my parents that caused me to become a serial killer?"
"I've just remembered that I'm not a serial killer."
"I now know that both my parents are alive, and I've never even started a bonfire."
"If only I could remember why I'm having memories and why I've left this voice message to myself on my phone."
"I didn't leave that voice message, and don't own a phone, and have never had parents."
It's incessantly like this, but on its own theme. And it's not just the narrative, it's the incredible prose too. This is a game that contains the lines:
"My memories filter through the empty spaces of my brain, and I am able to move through the images of my memories thanks to the objects that have appeared."
"Alice feels my pain and takes my hand. This is our heaven, never forget that. How can this abject place be our heaven? What is happening to me?"
"Is this perchance some kind of perverse penitence for my sins?"
And my personal favourite.
"Could it be that one of those bombs fulfilled its purpose and this place is the purgatory reserved for me by fate?"
It's endlessly spectacular like this, every line as purple as an aubergine. It's beyond anything I could parody, and for that I respect it so very much. But dear lord, sorry, I can't keep slogging through these identical puzzles to find out if it ever wraps up.
So there you have it - the worst game story ever, and you're the only people who'll ever know. But you'll know.
Perfect Angle is out now for Windows, Mac and Linux via Steam.