You know that eccentric, lovingly hand-drawn horror-adventure game vaguely inspired by the first half of the Rob Zombie remake of Halloween you've been so patiently waiting for? It's finally arrived...in the form of an indie game/demo you can currently download for free from Itch.io. And, I'm pleased to say, it's actually pretty darned good.
A quick Google search tells me that a Sally Face is a "man that acts like a woman". And while I'm not quite sure this game's protagonist can be accused of such delicate girlishness - he's quite the courageous little chap, actually - he does have bright blue pigtails and obscures his feelings behind a creepy prosthetic mask, so there's no denying he's a heck of an interesting and complex character. He's not the only one, though...
In the course of this half-hour-or-so taster, we meet not only "Sal" himself but a whole bevy of bizarro characters, ranging from his depressed dad (who just hasn't been the same since Sal's mother died), a portly chap named Charlie (who obsessively collects "Glitter Pony" dolls), and a metal-head dude in the basement who could beat Beavis and Butt-Head in a head-banging contest any day of the millennium (when he's not trying to solve the mystery of who killed the woman in the apartment upstairs). It's a pretty intriguing set-up, to say the least.
Is Sally Face scary? Not really. It's not meant to be. It's mostly meant to be kinda spooky and unsettling, and it's in this arena of "atmosphere" that the game excels. The storytelling is also strong and compellingly enigmatic, and to say that the game positively oozes personality is a bit of an understatement. In my opinion, Sally Face does far more interesting things with masked murderers (or is he..?) than the more blatant likes of recent multiplayer mayhem-fest Dead by Daylight.
Oh, and for all you people out there who are perhaps worried what the word "adventure" entails in a video game...rest easy. This isn't one of those uber-difficult propositions with obscure puzzle solutions you wouldn't guess in a hundred-trillion years. Even I got through this one without a walkthrough, and trust me, that's sayin' somethin'!
Think of it as a "story-rich" third-person walking simulator with just a tiny bit of brain-usage, and you've got a better idea of what this game is all about. Actually, that's not fair: your brain will most certainly be engaged, but only in order to appreciate the depth of the game's themes and symbolism, as opposed to flogging those synapses in an effort to progress just one puzzle further. An exercise in frustration this sure as shit ain't.
This is only the first episode of a projected five-part series, so what manner of eccentricity is yet to come is anyone's guess (well, okay, the developer himself probably has some idea, but I'm happy for him to keep any spoilers to himself)! And it has a fund-raising page up on Indiegogo as we speak, which unfortunately only seems to have attracted a small amount of backing thus far.
Time for a small rant, then. Do we really live in a world where a fifth Michael Bay Transformers movie is being made, while a genuinely intriguing, "sick" little gem like this can barely scrape together enough spare change for a cup of coffee and a bed for the night? I fear we might. No, I haven't been paid by the dev to make this plea, nor have I contributed any funds to his campaign (honestly, I'm a pauper among paupers, who's yet to see two freaking cents for any words thus far launched into cyberspace; that'll be my excuse, anyway)! It just brings a tear to my eye to know that mediocrity so readily thrives, while projects like this so often go the way of the dodo before their fifteen minutes have even started. Shame on you all.
Best of luck, Mr Steve Gabry. The gaming and horror-themed worlds need more people like your good self. I tip my mask to you, and look forward to playing the rest of this fascinating game in the foreseeable future. Cheers.
Oh, and before I forget, here's links to the Indiegogo and Itch.io pages, should this review have in any way piqued your interest: