Marc Perry ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Hello and welcome to 10 Below, a column in which I talk about a game that’s available for purchase for ten dollars or less. The ten dollar or less section on Steam, where most of these games will come from, is quite the mixed bag, isn’t it? It’s messy. You’d almost think Steam has no quality control sometimes. But this game I’m about to review in the first 10 Below, as unfortunate as it is, would have passed their QA team on merit alone: Harvester.
Harvester and I have an interesting relationship. On my personal YouTube channels, I’m working through videos on the game. I know the game pretty well. And in that way, I guess you can say the game plagues me to this day. I legitimately find it a painful experience. But I must get into details before I tell you anything more.
Let’s start with the story. The story of Harvester is extremely convoluted. It has an amnesia plotline to start you off. Your name is Steve. You live in an odd town called Harvest that seems to be entrenched in 1950s culture if 1950s culture was dictated by a 5-year-old with a concept of rampant racism, sexism, shock horror, and incest. Steve seems to be the only normal one in the town, which has a missile base, a dead alien and a castle. You know, your generic 1950s castle. Steve is an amnesiac, the greatest of plot conveniences, and goes through town trying to find out what exactly is going on around him. Through Steve, you can meet a cast of wacky characters. Well, on the spectrum of wackiness, they’re definitely more towards dark wacky, except one character, who’s basically female Steve, down to her name. Stephanie is another amnesiac character who Steve is supposedly engaged to. The idea is you go through Harvest, solving puzzles, going through areas, and completing challenges for the town’s central organization called The Lodge. It might seem as if it’s a concept that can be done well, but just you wait.
Now, the sound in the game. The voice acting in this game ranges from okay to downright hilarious. It’s probably the best executed part of the game. Steve is bland, which is absolutely fine. Stephanie is the same way. Everyone else? Completely bonkers. There’s not too many voices you can mistake for each other unless you’re supposed to be able to. They can make you laugh or just make you horribly uncomfortable. It’s overacting used at its finest. The music on the other hand is a bland, boring set of basic, alien-esque creepy tunes, except when the sound randomly gets overridden by static. I think that’s supposed to be stylistic, but when your stylistic choices override the actual important parts of the game, you’re doing it wrong.
Now on to the game’s visuals, where game graphics go to die. This game was made in the ‘90s and sometimes that excuses certain graphical qualities. But, for the love of all that is holy, it cannot excuse this game. It tries to meld Myst style graphical backgrounds with full motion video and rotoscoping of people. It looks horrible, and frankly the color palette didn’t help. Its drab greys and browns may have seemed very ‘50s, but it also hurt my eyes.
Okay. I’ve been building to this. The very reason this game should not have taken as long as it did to complete. We are on gameplay, ladies, gentlemen, and all other configurations of being. The gameplay of this game starts out actually somewhat okay, until you realize you can permanently break your save and there’s nothing you can do about it if you do one or two things wrong. An example I have is that, when I killed the butcher of the town, I was completely fine afterwards. No cop came to collect me. But, I did it before I needed him for another quest… without my knowledge. If you try to play this game without cheating and pulling up a walkthrough, odds are you’ll either make a mistake like that or just generally have no idea what you’re doing. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do when I played until I pulled up a walkthrough. Most of the puzzles rely on moon logic. This is a common complaint of point and click adventure games, many of which are good, but if there’s no recourse to figuring out what on God’s green earth is going on at all ever, then there’s a problem. Of course, this isn’t the biggest issue. That would be chapter three. There’s combat in this point and click, and not good stuff. Not smart stuff. It’s simply right click and pray. It’s the worst part of the game and what really made me groan. But, I’ll be honest, it wouldn’t have affected me that much had it not been the central mechanic of the entire third act of the game. The third act takes away any mental challenge the game had presented in favor of an entire level of right clicking and praying. It’s not only the worst combat system ever, it’s the worst concept ever.
So, the big question is: is this game worth its price tag of ten and below? I would say yes, but only if the price tag was $1.99. The game, being sold at $5.99, is too much too put yourself through so much pain. My advice? Watch this game, don’t play it. But, whatever you do, do not purchase this god-awful piece of crap known as Harvester.