Is it ok to post a review if you’ve played a game for ages and still don’t know what you’re doing? Is it ok to write a review if you’ve spent a decent amount of time on a game and you don’t even know what’s going on? I pondered these questions – and others – after sinking a reasonable amount of time into surreal indie nightmare Sewer Rave – and decided that I probably still could let you know my thoughts on it, even if I’ve emerged from the experience far more baffled than when I first entered the dank, eponymous sewer.
If you’ve ever been to a rave, you’ll know how thrilling it is to hear the bass pumping as you approach the entrance; you’ll know how disorienting it can be when you’re inside and you’ll know how vacuous and tiresome many of the people in attendance can be. Despite being a surrealist fever dream featuring rats instead of humans – though many characters comment upon the fact that you aren’t a rat yourself; the game being in first person means that your identity isn’t clear – Sewer Rave seems to absolutely nail all of those things.
In particular, the disorientation. Going back through a door you’ve just gone through will lead you to somewhere completely random; there’s no continuity of space here or map that you can rely on, in your head or otherwise. You’ll encounter some very strange things on your travels – mazes stuffed with aggressive cats, terrifying Bambi-esque deer lined up just staring at you as you pass, subway trains that you can actually travel in, knife-wielding giant Opossums, boxing matches with regal rodents and much more besides. You’ll occasionally find a platforming section, but I’ve not yet managed to successfully navigate one of these; as with everything else, however, this doesn’t seem to hinder progress, because going through a door in the room you’re in just seems to lead you somewhere random anyway.
There’s items to collect – cheese and cups of sludge, for example. Cheese sometimes acts as currency, with some rats offering things like keys – to open locked doors that you’ll sometimes come across – in exchange for a number of pieces of cheese.
I have not yet worked out what many things do. I don’t think I know how to progress – or even if I can. Yet it’s a weirdly compelling little game with an absolutely banging soundtrack and surprisingly great audio design – plus the random rat dialogue (which you can customise) is frequently hilarious. Whenever I turn Sewer Rave on, I know I’ll have a bizarre and completely different experience to the last time I played it, which is kind of cool.
Even if I have no clue what’s happening, I’m enjoying myself. Which almost perfectly describes real life raves. Surely that’s a success, right?
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