The Visitor: Massacre at Camp Happy
While there's no denying that Will Smith and clever socio-political commentaries have done a lot of great things for the "space monster" genre, I say it's high time it gets back to its screamy, bloody roots. The Visitor: Massacre at Camp Happy is ClickShake's newest horror puzzle game, does just that. In this slippery, squelchy follow-up to the original, you once again take up the noble mantle of interstellar spaceworm of death, here to devour animal flesh and gain their abilities. Mmmm, otter! Good for what ails ya.
This time, the Visitor arrives via meteor to the no doubt completely appropriately named Camp Happy, a veritable buffet of varied wildlife and oblivious campers... your real goal to find and devour in any stage. Manually control the Visitor with the [arrow] keys, maneuvering around the map, and try to make your way towards the tender human flesh in each level. You can devour any creature equal to your size or smaller by pressing the [spacebar], to not only gain a boost in energy and size, but also take on any special abilities that friendly forest critter might have had; birds will allow you to fly, for example, while certain mammals will allow you to make your way through dense underbrush. The trick is not only knowing what animal is best for getting you past certain obstacles, but also to make sure you're neither too big nor too small for certain areas.
Your progress is automatically saved, so if you leave and come back to the game, you'll start on the last level you didn't complete. Take enough damage, and your current Visitor will meet an untimely end, but another will arrive immediately to take its place, forcing you to restart the stage from the beginning. It's like a great big, dripping, fanged circle of life. Let's see you try and make that sound appealing, Tim Rice.
Analysis: If you played the original installment, you were probably as surprised as I was to see the gleefully sadistic and disgusting point-and-click puzzle screens replaced with some good old fashioned action/puzzle gameplay. Personally, I don't think this is a bad thing; The Visitor came out in 2007, and to release more of the same three (almost four!) years later would have reeked a bit of beating a dead horse. (A smelly process to be sure.) Camp Happy is actually what I wish developers would do more of; a step in a new direction. It keeps the original oddball concept, but this time there's more involved to playing than just clicking a series of hotspots in the correct order. The gore is as over-the-top as ever, and combined with the bright visuals lends the game a certain morbid charm that makes it fun to explore.
It's a lot more hands-on... or, uh, flipper-on, depending what you've just taken a bite out of. Most of the early levels have you just wandering around the area, taking stock of what animals exist and what order you need to chew their faces in. It's figuring out what animals are going to impart some special ability and which ones are going to shrink and grow, like Willy Wonka's factory via Quentin Tarantino, that makes the experience a little bit trial-and-error at first. It would have been nice to see a few more abilities featured, too; the game features such a unique lead character that I wish the gameplay offered a bit more surprises to take advantage of that. An underwater stage where you were stuck in fish form, perhaps, or a titanic squirrel/raccoon battle that took place in the treetops.
While it might not test your skills, The Visitor: Massacre at Camp Happy is still a weird, fun take on the puzzle genre, with all the splats and cheek you've come to expect from its developers Jay "Zeebarf" Ziebarth and Steve Castro. It's silly, it's gross, and it might be just what you need to rinse the oppressive taste of Christmas cheer out of your mouth after the holidays. And the best part is you get to live out the completely normal fantasies we've all had about being a terror from beyond the stars that craves mountain lion! Right, guys?... guys?
... why are you looking at me like that?