Written by Dave Gamble on 7/18/2018 for PC  
More On: P.A.M.E.L.A.

It seems as if I have been here before. No, certainly not this exact same place, because if that was the case I would have some idea as to where I was and, for that matter, who I am. But still, it seems so… familiar. Waking up in a cryotank with no personal memories is bad enough, but anyone that could have brought me up to speed on my current situation is either dead, or dead and reanimated as a Zombie-like creature, which is worse. It's quite unsettling, as I am sure you can imagine.

I am not totally helpless. I have what seems to be a collection of partial memories, or possibly some seriously elaborate deja vu, that might come in very handy. Having been through this kind of thing before (either in actuality or just as vestiges of random, narcotic-induced thoughts) helps, though; I have absolutely no idea what it going on, what I need to do, or how to do whatever it is that needs to be done should I ever figure it out what that is, but I do know what to do to improve the situation: walk around a bit, pick up everything I see lying around no matter how inconsequential it may appear to be, and wait for the tutorial to start.

The awakening this time was, in a word, creepy. As my eyes opened, I immediately realized that I was ensconced in a glass tube of fluid. There was a countdown timer within my sight, and it was showing that there were less than five seconds until…. until what??? I panicked. As much as I hate to admit it, I lost reason and started banging on the side of the tube. Nothing happened as a result of my efforts, of course, but when the timer expired I was released from the tube. That was a huge relief, but it’s also when things really started getting creepy.

Suddenly a blue hologram appeared in my hand. It was in the shape of a female, roughly eight inches tall, and it started to speak. My first thought (and please forgive me for this, but my brain was still muddled) was that she was going to call me Obi Wan Kenobi and tell me that I was her only hope. As it was, she said some things, but none of it made much of an impression on me. I did do something that caused her to demonstrate a personal tech tree, which in turn caused me to wonder if she would be something/someone that would be helpful to me in the future, but for the moment that kind of thinking wasn’t productive.

The most important thing to do was learn more about my surroundings and my capabilities. Using ingrained knowledge of the way these things typically work, I was able to open an inventory page (empty, natch) and to find a fancy electronic doodad on my left wrist. Just as my intuition was beginning to fail me, small tutorials start popping up. From these I learned how to scan and search furniture, crates, trash cans, and anything else that flashed when it was scanned. Not every vessel held a prize, but the scanning was good enough to avoid wasting a lot of time on useless endeavors.

Some of the drawers and crates turned out to be locked. There were two types of locks that I ran into. The first was a collection of concentric circles with decreasing radii - something like the rings of a tree. Each of the circles had an arc delineated by a couple of perpendicular markers. The inner ring’s  arcs were narrower than the larger arcs. A marker dot was travelling around the circumference of the outermost ring. To unlock the drawer/crate, I timed a mouse click to hit at the precise moment when the orbiting marker was inside one of the arcs. If I timed it right, the orbiting marker moved down to an inner circle and the cycle repeated. If I managed to get all of them timed correctly, the lock unlocked. The whole process was on a timer, and I was only allowed to make a limited number of mistakes. If I took too long or made too many mistakes, security was alerted.

That was not a good thing, as it turns out.

The second type of lock was also timed and was also inherently intolerant of mistakes, but the methodology was different. Instead of the nested circles, there were two or three hieroglyphic-ish characters, each placed on top of a moveable collection of images. The idea was to select the images that, when placed over each other, would match the lock’s hieroglyphic. It’s trickier than it may sound, especially with the clock ticking.

There were various levels of difficulty for both types of lock, ranging from easy to OMG!  My first experience with one of the locks was also my first experience with meeting an ugly death after Security arrived. I disliked that result so intensely that I went into the settings and turned all of the difficulty settings to their lowest possible values.

“That’ll show ‘em,” I thought smugly.

Yeah. This is not going to end well.

I continued on with my “if it’s not nailed down, pick it up” strategy for quite awhile. As I did so, I learned where I was (Ark Medical), for all the good that did. It was a very large building with a lot of Cryo Pods (where I had been before my awakening), hospital rooms, and corpses strewn all over the place, some in body bags, some not. It was an attractive place, albeit pretty dark, and would have been very pleasant under other, vastly different, circumstances.

I had a flashlight, though, which helped, and it worked even better when I found an attachment for it that spread the beam out some more. Fooling around with getting the attachment attached to the flashlight was cause to spend some more time looking at the inventory screen. The most important part to me was the area that showed everything that I was carrying, but there was also a section for managing the flashlight along with other things, such as what type of protective helmet I was wearing. 

After a lot of walking around collecting all kinds of stuff, I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t able to add anything else to my inventory. As long as I was in there I thought I’d see if there was anything I was carrying that was so obviously useless that I could drop it. I ended up not needing to leave anything behind, though - I was able to rearrange things of different shapes in a way that freed up some formerly wasted space - I found that to be a very clever feature indeed. 

More fiddling around with my wristband computer and the inventory screen eventually led me to the crafting and engineering screens, which I found intriguing, but I had yet to figure out how to craft or engineer anything. It was good to know they were there and I made a mental note to learn more about them once I had a better feel for what I would be needing. I had already found plenty of food and drink, along with a nice pile of Lux. I didn’t know what Lux was, but because it was green, came in numeric values, and I could get more of it by putting inventory items into a recycling machine, I assumed it was some type of currency and hence worth keeping. The fact that they didn’t take a lot of inventory space was in their favor too. I later found a vending machine as well, so I made a point of collecting Lux in case I needed to buy a snack.

What I should have made a point of was getting better at unlocking locks. They were the secret to my… failure.

Well, that isn’t entirely true. My lack of fighting ability contributed as well. What happened was that I failed to unlock one of the very hard locks and Security was called. They came. This was not the first time that had happened, but in the few encounters I had had with them previously I was able to run away from them until I could lead them to a strolling zombie. They would get distracted by beating up the unfortunate walker and I would simply slink off into the welcoming darkness, chortling (quietly!!) to myself at their abject incompetence. That was a workable strategy, right up until it wasn’t. Ironically, they cornered me just under a sign that said “Range,” which I took to be a firing range. That had been my hope, anyway, because I felt as if I was totally defenseless without some type of weapon. Sadly, I never found out. They cornered me, I tried to fight them off, but it was no use: I perished.

I take only partial blame for my death; I’m not good at fighting games, but the unresponsiveness of my punching was a huge hindrance. It seemed to take a half dozen frantic mouse presses to get a punch to fly, but it was probably less. In any event, it was too many for me. I simply couldn't hit them enough to hurt them. They did not have the same problem. Well, they may have, but if they did I was unable to take advantage of it. 

After I died, I was offered the choice of starting over or being respawn. Obvious choice, that, but I must have done it wrong. After a couple hours walking around exploring and slowly building up my inventory, I eagerly selected respawn. As I said, I must have done it wrong, because before I knew what was happening....

I found myself ensconced in a glass tube of fluid. There was a countdown timer within my sight, and it was showing that there were less than five seconds until…. until what??? I panicked.

Well, no, I didn’t panic. I quit. I’m not sure how I managed to end up right back at the beginning, but there I was, and I wasn’t about to start over.

Fortunately, this time I retained my memories.  

To wit: There was a lot to like about P.A.M.E.L.A. It’s early days yet and the game is still in development, but it’s clear to see that it is going to be a deep and complex survival game. The world is attractive and runs smoothly given sufficient hardware, although what looks like a large and varied world is just shy of that mark - I would call it large and more than a little bit repetitive, but that could be a terribly unfair judgment since I never managed to escape from Ark Medical. There is an underlying mystery too, supported with recorded voice messages that you can retrieve from speaker boxes found on the walls of the medical center. The inventory, crafting, and engineering screens are well designed and although I was primarily concentrating on food, fluids, and the hope of finding or crafting a weapon, it appeared that there would have been plenty to learn and do once I was able to make better use of them.

There is a minor criticism, however, and as embarrassing as it is to share, I feel that I must: the AI are dumber than a case of cucumbers. The security bots can often be found stuck up against a wall, completely devoid of clever escape tactics such as simply turning around. A quick note on those stuck ones: they may seem like an easy mark, but it’s best not to go over and punch one. They hate that. They hypocritically say, “Please refrain from physical violence,” as they pound you into, well, they pound you right back into a cryo chamber. The zombie AI are not much better, other than the fact that they don’t whine about physical violence as they themselves deal it out - they just screech. You (well, me, and that’s the embarrassing part I alluded to) can still end up back in a cryo tank. Some type of hostile opponent is seemingly de rigueur in survival games these days, but I (for one) wish it wasn't.

I just want to survive.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.

While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.

My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.
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