Selene and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Returnal is a weird beast.
Its gameplay is a grease stain lit on fire. A blender of 2D side-scrolling bullet hell, in a dash-happy 3D world. It can be so mesmerizing, it’s hard not to stop and watch Housemarque’s TM helix bullet-patterns or bright-blue lasers arch the sky, before slamming into the earth on top of you.
It all feels great. And it looks great. A spectacle of sound and motor skills and neon.
And then there’s the story. It’s not so much a video game storyline (not that we need any more of those) as a graduate student’s art-house film project about regret, trauma and mental illness (that also breaks the 4th wall, because… why not??). A film project that would win some major screen time at a mid-upper film festival (less Sundance, more Denver Film Festival).
And it leaves me utterly confused. Which is OK. I’m sure it all fits together if I were willing to dig for it.
Returnal is a game of extremes. Extreme kinetic energy and extreme obfuscation. This is no hero fantasy. There are no shooting galleries. Only a deep flow state and residual impact.
Returnal is the chance to go ‘all in’ for a little bit. And I miss that.
Memory: Nemesis Boss Fight