Here at The Arcade we’ve had a chance to get acquainted with the work of Paul Franzen and Oh! A Rock Studios. We’ve reviewed Cat President and The Beard in the Mirror. So when we were given the chance to review his latest game, The Awkward Steve Duology, before it gets released on Steam I gathered up the courage and decided I’d review it.
And I found a very strange game, one that ended up appealing to the very core of my being.
Oh, erm… A heading? I’ll try to think of one later.
At times I’m a very anxious person. I struggle with talking to people at events and the like and I tend to sit by myself in a corner. I’m also the type of prick who ends up reading a book at parties but I’m working on that. And don’t get me started on phonecalls or hearing a knock in the door and not making a sound because if they don’t hear me then they don’t know I’m there!
Awkward Steve spoke to me in that sense because it’s a game that captures that feeling and takes it to grotesque highs. Though to be more specific it’s two short games in reality A Stranger Comes and Don’t Turn Your Back On The Ocean.
We play as Steve (played by Franzen himself) in both of those games. He’s awkward, he has a magnificent beard and he wears a pug t-shirt. Both of them are full motion video games, a bit short but there’s a lot of humour to it. And surrealism, this is possibly the most surreal game I’ve played recently.
Seriously, why does this plugin insist on headings?!
The choice of format is curious. I remember when all the adventure games had to be in FMV with real actors, stages and whatnot. And the end results of all those things haven’t aged well, in many cases they took themselves too seriously and turned out very cheesy. Sure there are exceptions to this but a lot of these games haven’t aged well.
Still, it’s funny seeing a game like this, shot with a phone, with a better video quality (and no compression) than some of those games that came in seven cds! And the game fully embraces that cheesiness with its awkward humour. This humour is also in the premise and how Steve talks to us. While the game has sound and voice Steve talks in a silent film type of way, he mumbles and then we see text of what he’s saying.
In the first game Steve is in his room doing his thing and someone knocks on the door. He’s not expecting anyone so he gets stressed out. In this game you have to try to lower his stress so that he gets confident enough to open the door. If his stress reaches a breaking point he dies.
Oh man, why headings? Why do this to me? I’m never leaving my room again
The second game Don’t Turn Your Back On The Ocean is the longest of the two and it packs quite a punch. In this game Steve ends up in his bathroom. His roommate starts a party so he has no other choice than to lock himself in the bathroom and try to pass the time.
The thing is that some of the choices lead to death. You try to shave your beard? Death. You try to read what’s on a candle? Death. You try to play a board game? Guess what! It’s the Game of Death and you’re dead! Again this is played with humour and you always return to the moment of the choice. So far my favourite death was trying to go to the party and hearing the housemate say “Oh hey, it’s Steve! LET’S EAT HIM!” That certainly helps with my anxiety about parties!
The stress mechanic isn’t present here but that’s because Ocean is telling a different story than Stranger. I can’t say anything else about this story without spoiling it, so I’m not going to. You’re going to have to find out for yourselves.
The game will be out on Steam on July 18th. No idea how much it will cost but you can add it to your wishlist and you’ll surely get a notification when it’s out.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.