The Jane Austen B(i)o(sh)o(c)k Club

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Because if Jane were alive, she’d be splicin’ up a storm.

This game is giving me immense pleasure. And I say that in italics, so you know it comes from here (places hands over heart). I spend weird amounts of time thinking about the Bioshock-verse. I find myself rewarding small daily achievements — brushing teeth, remaining upright, blinking eyes successfully, etc. — with little 15 min. Bioshock mini-sessions. The disease has taken hold. I’m killing my cravings at the circus of value!

I’m only a few hours in — just slugging my way through Arcadia Gardens — but I’m impressed at the way the designers keep layering in new gameplay elements to ramp up the richness. Plasmids I knew about going in, since they were sold as the big-ticket power-ups. But I’m having a lot of fun swapping the various tonics in and out, too. And I complained about the lack of weapons in the demo, but they’re turning out to be satisfyingly diverse in the full game — nothing like unloading a faceful of electric buck into one of those stupid flying-whistling security droids (and I just scored my first weapon upgrade (I upped the damage on my machine gun), which promises to be a fun little diversion.) I even get a mindless buzz out of the hacking mini-games. It’s almost too rich — this whole pseudo-crafting U-Invent-It! side of things is kinda silly. But the designers smartly don’t seem to be punishing me for blowing off the aspects of the game I can’t be bothered with.

I hadn’t realized at first what a cruel game it is. There’s a disturbing preoccupation with plastic surgery, and there are a lot of corpses, many of them pretty grisly — when you incinerate somebody, they leave a horrible burn-victim corpse. (Not so disturbing that I won’t search them for money and ammo, of course). I find the presence of the Big Daddies and their Little Sister companions gives the game an interesting rhythm, in that they sort wander around at will, and you can take them on whenever you feel like staging a mini-boss battle.

I do have quibbles. I’m kinda sick of searching every damn corpse and crate and snowdrift and whatever else I pass, but I feel guilty if I don’t. There’s a minor AI bug in the crazy-doctor boss that causes him to get stuck in his operating theater (not that I didn’t take advantage of said bug to take his head off with a shotgun while he stood there like an idiot). Some of the plasmids don’t seem that useful — I still rely on electricity and telekinesis for 95% of my plasmid needs. And I’m hoping we’ll see some bigger environments down the line. I know we’re underwater and all, but the low ceilings and close horizons are starting to feel a bit claustrophobic.

But those are quibbles. Forget about gameplay — at this point I just like to stand around and study the art deco ornaments and listen to that creepy crooning music. Anybody else playing along? Weigh in! Ryan doesn’t own you!