Free Game Friday: “The Longing Ribbon” (2008) PC
This’ll be the last Free Game Friday until after the holidays, my lovelies; Mr. Dragon and I are spending Christmas in England with the in-laws. Normal service will resume around New Year’s, but for now, let’s dive back into the annals of RPGMaker with the classic horror game “The Longing Ribbon”.
“The Longing Ribbon” begins with a man and woman arguing. Their son is sick, and the man is insisting they find a doctor. The woman, on the other hand, claims that she can treat the boy on her own. Eventually the man leaves, determined to seek help for his son, and the woman ominously says goodbye as his car speeds down the dark road. Cut to three friends, Sara, Matthew, and Jeannine, along with Jeannine’s dog, Sandy, driving through the woods and pretty clearly lost. They stop when they see a wrecked car in a ditch, but find no one inside and keep going until their car blows a tire. As a driving storm hits, they flee the car to an isolated driveway blocked by an electric gate. When a mysterious voice asks if they are willing, the three friends assume it must be a loudspeaker, and agree, heading into the house.
But, as the game’s blurb states, this is not “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The mansion is dark and eerie, with many nooks and crannies to explore, and the sound of the rain is omnipresent. The hostess is taciturn and unfriendly, commanding the friends to remain in their rooms and never to enter the southern suite. Her son is sick, you see. But when Jeannine is woken by noises and sees strange shadows in the garden, she can’t help but explore. And suddenly Sara is acting very strange…
When this game was released in 2008, it promptly took an award for “Best Atmosphere”, and it’s pretty easy to see why. The graphics are taken pretty much right out of “Final Fantasy 6″, and considering that’s one of my favourite games of all time, that made me pretty fucking happy. I also really love the fact that Jeannine is the main character, and she’s actually a really kick-ass heroine. It’s made clear from the beginning that she’s a savvy, intelligent woman. Also, through her dialogue choices, you learn she’s rather hilariously sarcastic. And, on a personal note, speaking as someone who loves big dogs, I gotta love the fact that Sandy is either a doberman (by his sprite), or a rottweiler (by his portrait).
I also particularly love how the mansion changes depending on what’s going on, becoming weirdly hallucinogenic, with moving furniture and strange backgrounds. It seems after a while that the house itself is turning against you, and that adds a “Silent Hill”-esque atmosphere of terror. The characters are also very well-developed, making for an intriguing story and a lot of investment on the part of the player. I also love the system of power-ups. The house is littered with paintings and bookshelves, and each chapter you’ll be able to view random pieces of art and literature. Paintings raise your HP, books your MP. In addition, bathroom sinks will provide boosts to stats or teach new abilities; you can choose one bonus per sink per chapter. It’s a great, unique way to encourage exploration, and adds a surprising amount of richness to the manor itself.
With that said, however, the plot become a little bit too complex at the end, with not enough time left to properly explain everything. The story is still interesting, mind, but I feel like a little less convolution would have worked to the game’s benefit. The player ends up rather confused about the characters’ motivations and just how the mythology that’s been laid out works. It feels like the writer tried to do too much and lost track of things at the end.
Finally, there’s the combat system, which…okay, it’s pretty crap. No, seriously, it’s crap. It’s not QUITE as bad as “One Night”, but it’s really up there. Your character’s health and mana are represented by minuscule bars over her sprite’s head, with no numbers to show how much life you have left. Nor is there any clue how much damage you’re doing to your enemies. Some of the characters are completely useless in combat, seeming to miss every single attack, while others have ridiculous issues like taking damage every time they attack. And when one character dies, ANY character, the game is over. Not fucking kidding.
It also feels in several places like the game designers were desperately trying to lengthen the game. There’s a point where Jeannine is exploring the cellar, and for no apparent reason, you can only travel a particular route. If you try to go a different path, you’re transported back to the entrance. It’s frustrating, ridiculous, and completely needless. The game is a very respectable length, and did not need this sort of useless padding.
Finally, I gotta say this, the father from the beginning does return, and he’s an IDIOT. Seriously. I can’t explain why without giving away plot points, but my jaw dropped at just how moronic he was.
Overall, this is a good game, but not without its problems. The characters are strong, the atmosphere is excellent, and the graphics are excellent. I blitzed through the first two hours in a wild rush, desperate to figure out what was going on, and was somewhat disappointed in the end. But it is definitely worth a playthrough for any horror fan, and it’s got some unique concepts in terms of gameplay. Just grit your teeth through the combat and don’t think too hard about some of the plot points.
You can download “The Longing Ribbon” at RPGMaker.net.