I picked up this game at the amazing price of $3, and so far I’m digging it.  You play Kate Wilson, an engineer on an immense ocean liner attacked by terrorists. 

You start in Kate’s apartment, which is really pretty… the game immediately urges you to leave it, but I wanted to stay there.  There’s not too much to do inside, though a nice touch is a working treadmill.

Kate apparently only owns one outfit

HP falls into the category of games that might be called “Shooters with one big fat Neat Gameplay Thing.”   In HL2 it’s the gravity gun; in Dead Space it’s the limb dismemberment; and in HP it’s water.  They have a fancy engine for rendering water effects, and it affects everything… sometimes you have to wade through inrushing water with big things floating in it, sometimes you have to swim, sometimes you release water into an area to put out fires or just be able to swim somewhere you couldn’t reach.   You have to watch out for electric wires in the water;  you can start fires and burn or drown enemies.  All this is pretty fun and definitely a unique element to the game.

This was supposed to be a luxury cruise!

A lot of the gameplay so far is puzzle-oriented, figuring out how to get to some area that at first seems inaccessible.  That part is reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge (the pipes are even red), and I’m happy that the game addresses one of my pet peeves, games that restrict you to walking on flat terrain.  Kate can jump, scramble up pipes, and I even discovered a novel use of crouching– in the scene above I was able to get past the jet of flame by crouching in the water. 

The rest of the mechanics remind me a lot of Dead Space.  A voice in your ear keeps giving you engineer-type tasks… your journal accumulates weird objectives like “get the frequency key that will allow you to download the cipher that will open the doors to the cyclotrons.”  The obvious route is always blocked, and necromorphs, or rather terrorists, pop up to get in your way.  And as in Dead Space, you’re kind of limited in weaponry.  You have a sonic gun with infinite ammo; in Easy mode it takes two shots to down an enemy, which is challenging enough if there are several enemies or they’re in the water… I’ve had plenty of anxious moments trying to figure out where the damn terrorist is shooting from.  There are explosive canisters around, and often they’re obliging enough to stand next to them.  You also get other types of ammo, which are rare enough that you learn not to rely on them. 

You can try to be stealthy, which is fun… though the terrorists, unlike the thugs in Arkham Asylum, have no personality and don’t react as their pals get knocked off.

I had to turn on the HUD target indicator; this is less challenging, but using the map was tiresome.  Something in between, like the single key-press “where’s my trajectory” in Dead Space, would be nice.

A major annoyance is that, so far as I can see, you can’t save the game and can’t restart at an arbitrary checkpoint.  I don’t understand why game designers do this. 

Girlfriend, we need to talk about your hairstyle

One nice touch: Kate occasionally freaks out a little (notably at a moment when the voice in her ear, her boss, disappears for awhile).  Though people may rise to a crisis, they’re not always going to be as imperturbable as Gordon Freeman or Commander Shepard.

Edit: thoughts on finishing the game.