Review: Agony is hellish

Madmind Studios’ Agony takes a greatsword-stab at shocking survival horror but gleans little more than a paper cut. It’s generally far more frustrating than it is frightful despite being painted in a palette of blood, bones, and boobs akin to a Doom mod inspired by Clive Barker and a disturbed, male teenager’s death-porn fantasies.

Welcome to Hell. You’re playing it.

Many years ago, Agony’s visual style might have been shocking—or at least less tired. Now it’s just red, white, and boring, visually speaking, and this bogs down an already less-than-thrilling game as you wander aimlessly through winding corpse-riddled halls soaked in blood and entrails.

You’re basically some nameless jackass who did something bad and went to Hell. Now you’re looking for a way out, apparently under the ‘sponsorship’ of the Red Goddess—whoever or whatever she may be.

Mostly the Red Goddess (and close to every aspect of Agony) just seems to be hateful, offensive representation of women created by sexually frustrated, angry male gamers.

It’s hard to escape this theme, and it alone could be a show-stopper for many players, i.e. female players. Releasing a game that could automatically disqualify 50% of all gamers out of the gate doesn’t seem like a wise decision to start with—even less so when the game itself isn’t even good enough for the few in the other 50% to enjoy even if they are willing to look beyond the repugnant theme.

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Despite what you may or may not read into Agony’s aberrant death porn representation of everything, even on a purely objective level it largely fails. I get that hell isn’t supposed to be fun, but a game about it should be. Hell is rife with endless and intriguing opportunities in terms of narrative and gameplay.

But playing Agony rather quickly devolved into a series of frustrating and seemingly arbitrary deaths strung together by long, often boring hunts for where to go next. It’s telling when if you were to remove these elements from the game to create a purely linear experience that a) the game would only take an hour to play, and b) you still wouldn’t want to play it.

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No, Agony mostly just made me want to play another game about (or in) Hell that was actually fun, like Doom. Or Diablo. Or maybe even Saints Row: Gat out of Hell. Or any number of vastly better survival horror games that may or may not even directly involve Hell.

Agony at its best shows faint promise in its narrative and has some interesting mechanics, such as possessing other bodies after you die. But there just isn’t enough to fuel continued desire to collect notes, solve rudimentary puzzles, and avoid vagina-faced demons, the latter of which frequently kill you while you’re sprinting away and getting hung up on random geometry.

And even the ultimate payoff, i.e. finishing the game, is just as bleak as playing it. I won’t even worry about spoilers here. You escape Hell and basically unleash Satan and the Red Goddess, his mistress, upon the world. Congratulations, a**hole.

Overall: 3/10 AVOID

Hate it for its tone-deaf women-hating themes, its uninspired gameplay and tired visuals, its countless frustrations, or all of the above. Agony just isn’t worth your time.

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