I’ve never read the Blue Estate comics. And now that I’ve played Blue Estate Prologue, I know to stay away.
The game is the first installment in an episodic rail shooter that uses the Leap Motion device for PCs. If you’re unfamiliar with Leap Motion, here’s the deal: you plug a small sensor into your USB port and place it somewhere on your desk or table, ideally in front of your monitor. You control games by waving your hands and gesturing above the sensor. In the case of Blue Estate, you point your finger at the screen to hover the reticle over your targets, and automatically fire your weapon when you’ve locked on. Other gestures allow you to reload your weapon, switch guns, or take cover behind nearby objects like walls and columns.
The controller works decently enough with Blue Estate, which doesn’t require much precision for you to succeed, though it stubbornly refused to recognize my attempts to take cover or pause the game a few times. Blue Estate’s identity doesn’t hinge on its use of this motion technology, however, but on its disgusting adolescent attitude.
This isn’t the only way in which Blue Estate’s perspective is warped.
Blue Estate Prologue sets a snarky tone straight off, with hypernerd cliche (and private investigator) Roy Devine Jr. telling the story of the exotic Cherry Popz, who, we’re told, has a deep aching void that only a good private dick can fill. Oh–it’s also a stinky void, as if we weren’t learning enough about the slinky stripper. Roy’s nasal narration provides Blue Estate’s main framing device, and is accompanied by fantastic artwork. One early scene portrays Cherry in silhouette, grinding against her pole beneath a single bright spotlight. In the foreground are disembodied images of all manner of firearms–and a single plate of spaghetti and meatballs. It’s a powerful and suggestive image, and it’s too good for the game and story it’s a part of.
You wouldn’t expect the mobster you play to be classy, but the dialogue is aggressively mean-spirited from the moment you enter the strip club that plays home to your shootouts. To the Asian trio that greets you: “Are your ears crooked, too?” While shooting the club’s endless guardians: “It’s like they built mooks into the walls!” And then you meet Cherry Popz’ replacement, Bertha Kowalski, whose voluptuous figure provokes Blue Estate’s endless fat jokes. “I guess the sequel’s gonna be The Big Mermaid,” says player-character Tony, referring to Bertha’s mermaid costume and the giant aquarium she sits upon.
This one-hour prelude thinks as little of you as it does its characters.
Once she loses her balance and falls into the massive tank (because fat women are funny!), Tony goes out of his way to let her flounder within. When he takes mercy on her and shoots her out of her predicament, she tries to flop to safety, still clad in her mermaid attire, which allows Tony to make more jokes at her expense. These cynical displays of non-humor are what I will remember Blue Estate for, as opposed to its bog-standard on-rails action.
The action isn’t awful–it’s just so very expected. As the game leads you through its opulent hallways, the camera shifts and enemies rush in for the sole purpose of taking your bullets. Great weapon audio gives your shots a sense of power, and henchmen fly backwards in a rewarding manner when you unload your shotgun into them. But one of the delights of a rail shooter is its showpiece moments, and Blue Estate Prologue is lacking in this regard. There are a couple of nifty sequences, such as an upside-down shootout, but developer HeSaw doesn’t take the opportunity to craft spectacular displays of ultraviolence or heart-pounding boss battles. Instead, the prologue’s main boss fight is a tedious slog that involves repeating the same stretch of gameplay until you initiate your opponent’s numerous deathbed soliloquies.
This string of last gasps provides one of Blue Estate Prologue’s only true moments of wit. Otherwise, this one-hour prelude thinks as little of you as it does its characters. In this case, the dumpy, bespectacled Roy is the stand-in for the players who install the game to their hard drives, and Cherry is the piece of meat the Roys of the world lust after. As he opens the door on a counterfeiting operation presided over by lingerie-clad laborers, Tony even says, “Mother of God…this is like an actual dream I have repeatedly had.” Blue Estate doesn’t subvert these tropes or parody them. Instead, it just smears the screen with racism and sexism, hoping against hope that you think that hating Asians and women is hysterical.