A descent into a visceral, bone and sinew-covered hell with some astonishingly graphic visuals and often explicit nudity (though not sexualised, it must be said), Agony has all of the basic ingredients in place to be a disturbing and altogether different journey through the bowels of the underworld.
Except no one thought to actually design a fully playable, narratively cohesive game around the concept. Things start off impressively, with a nicely done intro sequence – but once the game begins, it’s difficult to tell what the hell (pun intended) is going on, thanks to the way-too-dark visuals and the lack of any obvious paths. There’s assistance in the form of a trail you can activate, which points you to your next objective but – for who knows what reason – this seems to have limited uses before expiring.
It’s genuinely baffling to work out what is happening in the ‘story’ – or care, in all honesty. Not only that, but the nudity, gore and profanity get thrown at you so relentlessly that you’ll soon become completely desensitised to it. The sound design is probably the part of the game that holds up throughout, though I still need to caveat this by saying that I’m referring to the ambient sounds of anguish and despair, rather than the pitifully bad voice acting.
From a technical point of view, the game struggles too. I wouldn’t normally hold that against a game, but when it actively impedes gameplay to the point that you can die when the game freezes and catches up only to kill you off instantly, it’s a huge problem that can’t be ignored.
The list of bad design choices or simply poor implementation of ideas goes on and on, but perhaps the most egregious from a gameplay perspective are those seemingly unavoidable traps – collapsing floors seem to be one of the elements that cause the game to freeze, often leaving you unable to escape – and enemies.
Though the promo art is suitably lurid and does showcase some well thought out design elements, don’t be fooled – there’s rarely been a more aptly named game than Agony, nor one that’s as appropriately hellish an experience. If the developers wanted to engender feelings of frustration, anger, helplessness and despair through playing their game, they have at least succeeded admirably in that regard.
Many thanks to Forever Entertainment for kindly providing the Agony code for review.
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