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Zalag: Glustu (review) 
 PostTue Jan 22, 2019 7:57 am
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House Hause Hausu
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Morphine For The Soul
This is a review of Zalag: Glustu.

Zalag: Glustu is a game released in 2018 by MorpheusKitami as part of the Complicated Gallery series. While I have played several of the Complicated Gallery games, I haven’t played them all yet; so there’s a chance I was missing some crucial information from the previous entries.

An animated intro screen depicts a dagger rising towards someone’s face, followed by the text “spill his blood.” The curator from the previous games walks the halls of the Complicated Gallery. Roles have been reversed, and now the curator must pay the price for his sins by looking into the paintings himself.

I looked into the TV set labeled Morphine For The Soul, which is supposedly about “using devil weed to make someone better, not worse” (though this theme doesn’t seem to mean anything). The player controls Alice (yes, that Alice) as she wanders about a maze-like hospital. The typeface is garbled and a hard to read (probably intentionally) and the main menu items were mislabeled (also probably intentionally) so I accidentally backed out of it into the Gallery somehow; so I re-entered. As Alice wanders around the maze, she fights soldiers, creepy dogs, and fairies. Combat is holding Enter until enemies die. There are some paths that appear to lead off-screen but do not, some ordinary floor tiles that inexplicably can’t be traversed (blocking hallways that look like they should be open for exploration), and at least one instance of an object at the dead-end of a long path that doesn’t do or say anything (frustrating, as it was the only reason I’d followed the path to begin with). After killing God (who looks like the decapitated body of a doctor in scrubs) by spitting on him, there is a cutscene depicting a soldier looking down the scope of a gun. The curator is returned to the gallery.

Moving on, I chose the smaller painting labeled House Hause Hausu. The typeface is garbled again, as one kid dares another to enter a creepy house. Angels, demons, and death itself warn the player not to continue, but there doesn’t seem to be any choice. Trying to leave or talk to an NPC starts the segment over from the initial dare. Continuing forward into the house, God denounces the player for walking forward and restarts the segment again. As I couldn’t find a way to actually “win” this part, I used the menu to return to the gallery.

Next, I picked the large painting labeled Comic Horror Story. What exactly is happening is a little hard to discern, but I believe a German film director is being interviewed about a deceased colleague who was tormented during the holocaust (there are also interrupting bits that sound like they’re from a game show or contest, I couldn’t discern their purpose). The player controls a red-eyed person in a white robe, who is standing in a bedroom. If the player walks outside they will be taken to a grid of identical buildings (is this a concentration camp or ghetto?), most of them are empty, and the map loops (making it easy to get lost). When a building has content, it is utterly ambiguous; the scenes I found meant nothing to me. In one building there was a tall pale figure I attempted to speak to, but the reply was “you have nothing to say to yourself yet.” Another is a room full of people with their pants down, where I found a tarot card on someone’s bum. Another has a bunch of signs labeled Studio 52, and an NPC who says nothing. I walked in one building and got an automatic game over for reasons I couldn’t discern. . The locations look suitably disturbing, but none of it has any context so I couldn’t react or respond. It took me a second to realize that this is some sort of twisted riff on Yume Nikki. If the protagonist uses the bed, they are transported to a dream realm not unlike the Complicated Gallery itself. Entering into paintings takes the character to new weird locations, which are also quite opaque and grim and similar to the camp outside. Some of it’s in pretty abysmal taste (I’m pretty sure I stumbled into what was supposed to be a corpse-filled gas chamber).

I spent about 1.5 hours wandering around the various paintings/locations in Zalag: Glustu, but I never figured out what I was supposed to be doing or whether I was making any progress. As far as I can tell, Comic Horror Story appears to be the main feature here (it’s large); but I just couldn’t discern what was supposed to happen. Given the depressing theme and daunting size/layouts of the maps, it was draining to just think about. I’d be glad to try this game again if objectives were clarified in some way, but without any clues I found it inscrutable.
...spake The Lord Thy God.
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