October 30, 2008

Alive in Dead Space: No Known Survivors

Review

three happy spacemenLeave it to an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) to bring some heart-wrenching tales to the Dead Space universe. Like Halo's ILoveBees ARG before it, No Known Survivors adds a personal touch lacking in Dead Space's main plot. Through adventure game trappings you explore the last moments of the lives of two characters. One, on the Ishimura, is locked in his own organ replacement lab while monsters claw at the door. The other is a sort of galactic bouncer, aboard a small vessel scanning for nearby ships and checking their credentials. Their fates are revealed across four short episodes on NoKnownSurvivors.com.

While No Known Survivors may be one of the most bloated Flash applications of all time, the extra detail adds to the dark atmosphere of each tale. You control the main character from a first person perspective, scanning each small area for clues. Like most ARGs some of the mystery is tucked away in a cryptic manner, leaving the fan community to work together for answers. Thankfully, unlike ILoveBees, which required the work of hundreds of people around the world to decipher its clues, No Known Survivors is manageable for one person. You can get most of the story by clicking around until there's nothing left to click and moving on to the next episode.

No Known Survivors
One of the two rooms in No Known Survivors.

Part One, Misguided Affection, places you in the role of George Greggs, an organ replacement technician. Locked away in your lab, you're left with nothing to do but wait to die and look over your previous case files. Each patient file comes with its own voice-recorded session in which you learn the details of their accident. Most of the stories involve working accidents and lost limbs, ironic considering the heavy emphasis on limb removal in the Dead Space game. You learn that George took an interest in one of his patients, a woman named Jane, who lost three fingers in a fire rescue accident. It's a tragic tale, since it's never made clear whether or not their relationship was real, or just a hallucination amongst the horrors onboard the Ishimura.

Part Two, 13, takes place on a small ship, through the eyes of Gavin, one of three men who live on the vessel. Their job is to "watch the stars" keeping an eye out for ships entering unauthorized space. They hail the Ishimura, and Gavin's role becomes more clear. A family man, Gavin gets caught up in more than he can handle and is forced to make an impossible choice. You're left to the remains, discovering what he did and how his role in all of this ties in to the Dead Space game.

No Known Survivors
This ARG mixes several mediums to tell its story.

These tales relate heavily to the plot of Dead Space, adding something a little more personal and human to the cold, dead horrors of the universe. They also provide an interesting mix of media within the four walls of their respective locales. The stories are presented through live-action, voice-recordings, CG, text, and even animated storyboards. The variety seems to work as a microcosm of the crossmedia universe Dead Space presents: mixed-media within crossmedia, if you will. What No Known Survivors adds to the universe ends up being just as, if not more vital to Dead Space as the other crossmedia bits. Check it out.
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