Replica paired with Anderson Valley Briney Melon Gose
It’s hard to imagine a game more depressing than the excellent Papers Please, but I somehow managed to find one. Replica begins like every Elder Scrolls game: with the protagonist trapped in prison without much explanation. But unlike Skyrim and Oblivion, you don’t immediately escape to rescue the land and marry an orc or something. Rather, you’re handed another prisoner’s smartphone. Your only instructions are to find terrorist activities on the phone, otherwise you’re trapped in prison indefinitely. Basically, George Orwell’s worst nightmare come to life.
Heavily influenced by Papers Please, Replica is a retro-style puzzle adventure about as fun as watching Daniel Day-Lewis’s There Will Be Blood. Sure, it’s really good, but it’s also ridiculously depressing. At first, the mission (if you can call it that) seems simple enough. There’s plenty of satisfaction to cracking passwords and digging into the phone. It’s only once you begin learning about the phone’s owner that you feel that slight gnaw of guilt. I felt proud when I unlocked the phone without any clues but felt like the worst person as I perused his text messages.
Truthfully, the gameplay solely consists of feeling really, really guilty. All you do is investigate the phone’s text messages, contact list, and social media to look for anything that may be considered “terrorist activity.” Though by the end of the game, the definition of “terrorist activity” seems pretty stretched.
The puzzles aren’t that hard to solve; it’s easy enough to flag the word “revolution” and hear your handler gleefully chortle at the news. But the real heart of the game lies in how bad you about finding the information. Replica is very heavy handed. The government is bad and oppressive. There are no illusions or moral ambiguities. Replica puts you in a no-win situation and says, “Good luck.” Defying your handler leads to your own torture and death. Attempting to call someone and warn them leads to you getting convicted by someone else who “found evidence of terrorist activity on your phone.” Thus, you’re forced to investigate and ultimately destroy this random person. If you play the good government soldier, by the end (unless you don’t have a heart) you will feel like the worst person on earth. Because your handler becomes the Joker and you helped him.
All of the above may sound like a negative, but Replica may be the most immersive game I’ve played in a long time. My wife hijacked my computer so she could try it because I kept jabbering on about it throughout the day. The writing gives just enough information to create interesting characters but leaves enough out that you want to keep investigating. You want to learn more about the influential teacher that inspired the revolution. You want to know why the father is in bed with the government while the rest of his family is fighting against it.
In attempt to alleviate the depression caused by this game, I chose what I thought would be a happy summer beer. Anderson Valley’s Briney Melon Gose looked like a fun and refreshing watermelon beer. To my surprise, the beer perfectly matched the atmosphere of Replica. Briney Melon Gose initially tastes sweet and fruity but leaves a bitter and acidic aftertaste. And that’s a perfect description of Replica. The puzzles, vagueness, and atmosphere draw you in, but by the end you’re left with a bad taste in your mouth.
The puzzles, vagueness, and atmosphere draw you in but by the end, you’re left with a bad taste in your mouth. Replica was a lot of fun until the end when I felt like the world’s worst human being. Likewise, Briney Melon Gose begins as a sweet fruity beverage but ends up with a harsh and acerbic taste. I definitely recommend Replica; with a price of only $1.99, it’s a steal, but I’d avoid the Briney Melon Gose. The watermelon flavor is misleading and isn’t as refreshing for the summer as you might think. On the other hand, Trump may win the election and Replica will prepare you for that more than anything else out there.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch Paired with Hangar 24’s Wheels Up
I had heard a bit about Octodad when it first came out, but I wasn’t much into the indie scene back then. So when the sequel, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, was on sale for only a couple bucks, I figured it was the perfect time to dive into the game of wanton destruction and aquatic deception. You play as an octopus who, for some reason, decides to leave the ocean and take up a new life on land. Because why not?
After meeting a girl and falling in love, Octodad becomes a bona fide father of two. The gameplay in Dadliest Catch revolves around you, as an octopus, attempting to accomplish mundane feats of normalcy in your attempt to remain disguised as an ordinary, non-tentacled human. The gameplay reminded me of QWOP, albeit with more forgiving controls. The triggers raise your feet, the left joystick moves your arm in and out, and the right joystick moves the same arm around. The levels are essentially a set of puzzles you need to find a way to accomplish, all while hindered by the incredibly janky and loose controls (you are, after all, a squid trying to mow the lawn).
The game’s personality is the best part, however. It’s lighthearted and cheeky and is constantly poking fun at itself as well as chock full of random black humor. The 1950’s aesthetic complements the humor perfectly, and surprisingly enough, the voice acting is hilariously top-notch. It’s pretty rare for me to laugh out loud at any videogame, but Octodad: Dadliest Catch had me laughing all the way through its short 2-hour campaign.
Having never experienced this game before, I decided to try and find a beer that had the same light and aquatic vibe that the game’s cover has. I landed on Hangar 24’s Wheels Up, a Helles Lager out of Redlands, California. The description on the bottle reads “Subdued Complexity. If you could taste the clouds, this is what they’d taste like. Light, airy, with a delicate bready and lightly kilned malt sweetness. Balanced out by traditional Munich lager yeast, this is the perfect beer to kick your wheels up and enjoy a summer afternoon.”
The lager is actually a perfect companion to this game. It’s light and sweet, with a slightly malty aftertaste. It goes down easy, and only has an ABV of 4.3%, so it’s easy to put down a few of these on a hot day (like it always is in southern Cali). Mixing a beer that’s designed for summer with a hilarious game like Octodad: Dadliest Catch was a great stroke of luck, as the two combined perfectly to make a highly entertaining and relaxing experience.