ALL THE WAY DOWN
Start Date: January 29, 2015
End Date: January 29, 2016
On the afternoon of January 29th, I was in the mood for a short horror adventure that I could play for free, and some googling led me to a game called All the Way Down. This was described as a Lovecraftian point-and-click adventure created with Adventure Game Studio, which puts it right the fuck in my wheelhouse, so I downloaded it and dove right in. Less than 15 minutes later, I was done.
The game is so short and so lame that I am going to do something different here. I am going to provide a full walkthrough for All the Way Down. It will likely take me longer to type this than it did to play the damn game.
We begin with our lead character who is caught in a snowstorm in the middle of nowhere. He whines about this as if it’s a crazy unexpected turn of events, but I immediately wondered how he came to be in this unfamiliar location, on foot, in the middle of a storm. It’s never explained. A throwaway line about his car breaking down or something would have worked wonders here.
Our intrepid hero stumbles across a convenience store…
…where we learn that we’re on the border of a town called Millvale. The clerk gives us an ominous warning about the town, and tells us we’d be better off hoofing it to the next town, storm or no storm. Again I have to wonder how this character wound up in this situation. If he’s never heard of Millvale, how did he end up wandering around ten feet away from it? Anyway, we scoff at the clerk’s childish superstition and she reluctantly tells us that the local inn might have a room for the night.
On the way to the inn, we run into another ominous prophet of doom, an old man who I guess just stands around in snowstorms waiting to tell interlopers to turn back. We ignore him and he leaves, his role in this story now complete.
I will take a break from shitting all over the game to say that these graphics are really quite beautiful. They effectively evoke the creepily insular New England towns that Lovecraft wrote about in stuff like The Shadow Over Innsmouth. I was especially impressed by the area directly outside the inn…
…but sadly this area is all style and no substance, as there’s not a goddamn thing to do here except click on the door to enter The Miner’s Arms and continue the story.
After some back and forth, the innkeeper agrees to give us a room for the night, but then another old man issues yet another ominous warning:
We finally cave in to curiosity and agree to listen to the old man’s story, which amounts to this: In the days of yore, some miners accidentally unearthed a race of subterranean Deep Ones, who now have the town of Millvale by the balls. In the game’s cleverest moment, we take control of a miner during this flashback sequence.
It is too dark for the miner to advance any further to the left, so we have to PICK UP a broken pick handle, COMBINE it with a handkerchief, and USE that on the hanging lantern to make a torch. Then, for that extra touch of adventure game redundancy, we USE the torch on the hand lantern. We proceed to the left, and hear our miner get killed offscreen by a Deep One.
Back in present day, we scoff the old man and then finally decide to retire to our room for the night.
But I guess the old man’s story spooked us, because our character insists we “secure the room” before going to sleep. I clicked on the door a thousand times, trying to lock it, to no avail. Finally I realized that first you have to LOOK at the door, so your character can say, “hey look, there’s a latch on the door.” Then and only then can we USE the latch. Stupid.
We wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of something repeatedly THUD-ing against our bedroom door. To escape, we OPEN the window, USE the bedsheets on the bedpost to make a rope, and climb out.
But it was all for naught, because in the next scene we wake up to find ourselves shackled up in the basement with the bartender looming over us. “You’re not very good with knots” he tells us, and also that we’re going to be a sacrifice for the Deep Ones. He goes on and on about how these creatures revel in pain and anguish and they’re going to torture us for days until the very concept of pain has lost all meaning and only then will they kill us. Then the bartender leaves the room, and we easily slip out of our shackles by clicking on them twice.
So here we are in this room. The things in the room are: a short length of rope, a long extension cord, a peg on the wall, and an enormous gaping hole in the floor. Can YOU solve the mystery of how to escape?
Apparently our knot-typing skills aren’t all that bad after all, and we quickly find ourselves descending down into the deep, dark mine underneath the town.
There’s a bunch of shit down here, including: the skeleton of a miner with a book of matches in his pocket, a candle, a mine cart with a rusty brake lever, and a “glowing pool” of oil. I bet you figured out most of the steps you’d have to take before you even finished reading that goddamn sentence, right? But one thing held me up: How to transport the oil to the brake lever? The answer: There’s also a tin can somewhere in that picture. Can you find it? I fucking couldn’t until after I spent about 5 full minutes pixel-hunting every goddamn inch of the screen. Here it is:
Fuck you, game. Anyway, the oil is too thick to USE on the brake lever, so first we have to USE the matches on the candle, USE the tin can full of oil on the candle, and then USE the tin can full of melted oil on the brake lever. Keep in mind that while we’re stumbling around doing all this nonsense, not a single Deep One has shown up to shred the skin off our bones or whatever. You snooze you lose, Deep Ones! Anyway, with the brake lever properly oiled, we can finally ride this mine cart out of here like Diddy Kong.
How exciting! We’re finally leaving the mine. What dark corners of Millvale await us next? What will our first encounter with the Deep Ones be like, once they emerge from the shadows?
Oh. I guess the game’s over. Okay.
What’s even more insane is that once the credits roll, you discover that it took a team of six people to make this fucking game.
Look, I don’t want to rag on these guys too much. They touched upon some cool ideas, and as I said, the game is visually beautiful. But if you’ve looked at every screen shot above, then you’ve literally seen every art asset the game has to offer. One dude could make Axiom Verge all by himself, but it took a braintrust of six to slap this thing together??
All the Way Down is less like a traditional adventure game than it is like that genre’s attention-deficient cousin: the Room Escape game. At its core, this is no different than those quickie flash games you play in your browser, except with even stupider puzzles. And maybe that’s what this team intended it to be. Or maybe they just intended it to be a demo for a more fleshed out experience that they were too lazy to ever complete. I can’t blame them for that, really. I’d probably do the same thing.
What really confounds me are the glowing reviews I encountered during my initial google search, which laud it as “a superb game” created by “titans in the point-and-click genre.” All the Way Down does display some potential, for sure, but give me a fucking break.
Anyway, I can’t imagine why you’d want to play this after I just walked you through the entire game, but hey maybe you’re crazy. If so, you can download All the Way Down for yourself here. Or you can just take the ominous advice of every character in the game, and stay out of Millvale!