Outcry (also known as Sublustrum) is the first adventure from Russian developer Phantomery Interactive. In it, your brother invites you to visit him at his apartment, but when you get there you discover that he’s gone missing. Moreover, after reading some of his research journals, you learn that recently your brother had built some sort of machine, and that supposedly the machine can separate the mind from the body and allow a person to explore strange lands. Some drugs are involved in the process, and so you don’t really know if your brother was onto something or if he was simply hallucinating, but you decide to find out.
Well, obviously, the machine actually works, and so you spend a lot of time in the adventure exploring unusual locations. The locations start out making some sense -- for example, the first place you visit is an alternate version of your brother’s apartment -- but then they just sort of get random and bizarre, and you’re not given any sort of reasoning about why they exist or what you’re supposed to be doing when you get there, which makes the game confusing and frustrating.
Worse, Phantomery Interactive added all sorts of graphical “enhancements” to the locations. When you start out, everything is sepia-toned, and objects flicker and you see lines through the display, like you’re watching an old movie. I’m sure the intention for this was to make the locations look and feel different, but this is one of those things that probably sounded good when Phantomery was dreaming it up but then didn’t work out very well in the game. All of the graphical shenanigans, from mirage-style waverings to weird rainbow effects, are annoying to say the least, and after a few minutes in the first location, I just wanted to turn them off.
The puzzles in Outcry also have some problems. Just like the locations, they’re on the strange and unexplained side, and you’re rarely given any hints or feedback to help you along. For example, at one point you end up in a huge, four-story wind harp, but the only clues you find there have to do with your brother’s childhood and a steamboat he once visited, which don’t have anything to do with the harp. Clearly, since you’re in a musical instrument the puzzles involve sound, but your objective is a little odd to say the least, and the only way I understood what I was supposed to be doing was to consult a walkthrough. In fact, I had to check a walkthrough with regularity while playing the game, and that’s not my favorite way to make my way through an adventure.
Finally, the story isn’t presented well, either. There’s a twist of sorts at the end, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with the strange places you visit, or the puzzles you solve, or your brother’s fate. The scope of the story is sort of interesting, though, and I think if Phantomery Interactive had developed it better rather than just pulling the twist out of left field -- for example, by hinting what the machine could be used for without stating why your brother designed it -- the journey through the game would have been more fun. Instead, everything sort of seems like a weird dream.
When I play an adventure, I’d rather have the puzzles be too tough rather than too easy, but in Outcry you’re given almost no help to understand what you’re supposed to be doing, or what solving the puzzles will do for you, or even what’s going on. If you like your puzzles tough and confusing, then Outcry might be a good choice for you, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.