Last month, there was an announcement for a VR game based on the classic movie Groundhog Day. If you aren’t familiar with it, the movie was based on a man reporting on the American Groundhog Day tradition before finding himself repeating the day over and over again. I’m quite a fan of these ‘time repeating itself’ kind of films. Edge of Tomorrow is a lot of fun, Source Code is interesting, and Happy Death Day has a great premise (it’s a garbage film though). I’m not sure how Groundhog Day will work as a VR game, but this has got me thinking about games that use this sort of mechanic.
You could argue that any game that includes player death as a mechanic is Groundhog Day in style. You return and repeat the same events but with new knowledge that allows you to make better progress up until your next demise. Rogue-likes/lites make particular use of this, forcing you back to the beginning to try and make it through the day once more. I’m ignoring this though and going for games that use this in a narrative way. Otherwise I could just throw out a bunch of random games and have done with it. Onwards!
Potential spoilers ahead for each game by the way…
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Let’s start with the obvious one. The world ends in three days, and you’ll see it happen over and over again during your journey to prevent the most terrifying moon you’ve ever seen crashing into the land. There’s not enough time to complete this feat at first, and only by your gains through each run can you have a chance to succeed.
There’s really nothing I can say about Majora’s Mask that hasn’t been said a hundred times elsewhere. It’s considered by some to be the greatest Legend of Zelda game created (making it one of the best games of all time by that suggestion) as well as the darkest. There are so many people who’ve analysed this an come to various conclusions, most of which involve Link having died during the events of Ocarina of Time and this being his purgatory of sorts. It had a rerelease on 3DS a few years back which is pretty neat.
If I’m honest, this list was in part inspired by The Shameful Narcissist having written about the game recently. It’s worth a read. Anyway, Oxenfree is a narrative-driven adventure game with a horror bent. A bunch of friends to drinking on an island, discovering that an occupant of town had been responsible for an incident that cost the lives of nearly 100 people. It’s great, with all sorts of bizarre things going on that affect the relationships of the characters (as well as their survival).
At various points, you’ll come across puzzles that relate to events that have already happened as well as ones that haven’t happened yet (that you know of anyway), and the finale suggests a whole lot of time travel shenanigans! It’s really rather good and worth your time. It’s normally pretty cheap on most services too.
999: 9 Hours, 9 People, 9 Doors
This actually ties into pretty much the whole Zero Escape series. The amount of Groundhog Day style stuff going on here is incredible. In this first entry in the series involves 9 people waking up in a sinking ship who are told that they can escape should they solve enough puzzles to reach the final numbered door. They each have a number (1 to 9) on a watch strapped to them, and should they fail to follow the rules of the ‘game’ the watch will explode, killing them.
This is a game with multiple endings. In fact, there’s even a flow chart that shows you roughly where the choices that affect these paths are. But the thing is, it’s not actually possible to reach the ‘true’ ending first time around. You literally have to fail multiple times to open up further paths because your character will somehow remember the events that lead to their premature demise. It’s not actually a ‘time repeating itself’ thing, as it goes down the parallel universes path instead, but I felt that the waking with knowledge of your ‘other life’ linked in well enough. If puzzles aren’t your thing, there’s a novel version of it available on mobile.
The Sexy Brutale
Damn, I liked this game! The visuals! The music! The utterly bonkers story! It’s not completely flawless, but there was so much to love. You awaken in a casino (the titular Sexy Brutale) and witness a murder. You’re given a watch that allows you to restart the day, and the task of preventing this (and other) murder(s) from taking place. You do this by observing the murder, interacting with the environment in and around the murder scene, and setting events in motion that will save the victim’s life.
Here’s the trick though: you cannot be in the same room as another character. You can’t directly interfere with the murder, meaning that you need to find other ways to prevent the demise of the other casino patrons. Saving someone gives you their mask and allows you to access more of the casino. There are some genuinely creative ways to save their lives and it acts more like a point and click puzzle game at times. The story goes utterly bananas by the end, with there being a lot of explanation as to why you can Groundhog Day the world at will and why all the patrons wear different masks. It’s pretty great and well worth a look.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop banging on about wanting a sequel to this, or at the very least the next part of the story! Set in an oppressive, dystopian future, two scientists manage to create a time machine. The implications for this are quite significant, but I won’t spoil any more as it’s a very short point and click game (not bad for a free game jam game at any rate).
You’ll repeatedly need to head back to the beginning to continually try to change events in certain ways. In a nice touch, Unloop keeps track of the number of loops you took to reach the conclusion. It’s certainly worth a look and probably won’t take more than 15 minutes to finish.
I did consider Alan Wake’s American Nightmare due to the nature of the early part of the game. I really do like Alan Wake, but I felt as though this section just artificially elongated the game rather than serving a real purpose.
What Groundhog Day style games do you know of? As a mechanic, I find it really interesting so I’ll certainly listen to any recommendations!