This week with 3-Bit, we're jumping into something that's a bit unusual, so don't look behind you. Ignore your peripheral vision. Everything is fine. Do not panic. Relax, don't mind the sounds and allow me to welcome you to…
"I'm On Observation Duty" by Notovia
This review is, in fact a double feature! As I'm On Observation Duty is part of a Trilogy! We're only going to cover the first and second games for today, with part 3 only releasing late last year. And, good news: You're hired!!
Gameplay: "Do Not Adjust Your Television Screen"
You may encounter physical beings in differing varieties: alive, dead, and the plain old weird! You'll find ghostly images through the cameras, manifesting on walls, or even…People! THE HORROR!!
That's right, you have a job! Spoopy! The gameplay is straightforward, like something straight out of a Five Nights At Freddy's game. You're tasked with, well, observation duty! You monitor someone's house and report to your employers of any oddities, strange occurrences, intrusions, all of which are classified as anomalies! They can be seen as objects missing from a given room, objects or items added to a room, perhaps even objects moving about! Often, these anomalies won't be objects at all, and that's where the creepy factor takes place. You may encounter physical beings in differing varieties: alive, dead, and the plain old weird! You'll find ghostly images through the cameras, manifesting on walls, or even…People! THE HORROR!! What makes this "job" a bit tense is you observe everything through a camera in a first-person perspective. You have several rooms to observe, and anything can happen in any of these rooms, at any time, and even all at the same time! The game usually starts off on the slow side, giving you time to get familiar with the rooms and camera controls, which operate via mouse click, arrow keys, or the typical A and D keys for left and right. Making both game's ambidextrous and user friendly.
To add to the pressure, you have until 6am to solve all the problems and survive. The anomalies can happen one after another, or they can exist at the same time…, and that is bad! If you let the anomalies build-up, if you're not fast enough to report them, or if you're not paying close enough attention, you get one warning that basically tells you how much danger you're in. If you don't report enough anomalies by then, well … I've heard the Pearly Gates could use tighter security, so you've got that going for you! Congrats! On the bright side, you'll really like this game if you're a fan of Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. You get to start the day over again like your horrid death never happened!! The other part of the challenge is whether you, as the observer, see anything different or not in each room. Not every anomaly will be right in your face; they can be as simple as a cup that had changed locations, or maybe it disappeared altogether. You'd actually be perfect if you were Shawn from Psyche! Photographic memory is a GODSEND here, although you can get away with being just okay enough. Thankfully the game is a little forgiving, as the first game is all in black and white, making it a little easier to notice if a chair flies across a hall, if a painting's been changed, if that guy behind you is slowly creeping up, or if that building in the back decided "hey, the sun's bothering me, let me rotate 90 degrees". It's truly the small stuff you need to sweat because those changes can be so subtle you won't notice them unless you make a mental note of those little details. Otherwise, say hi to the guy who spawned in the living room for me!
The second game is a bit different, perhaps a little more challenging and certainly more obscure. I know, shocking! Just trust me on this and have a censor bar or something at the ready. Observation Duty 2: Timothy's Revenge (Not mine, I Promise) is all in colour this time around, with a few more rooms to check and more even more anomalies to keep an eye open for! It may even be an increase to the difficulty as you will be switching to colour cameras (compared to the first games monochrome cameras). Things are a little harder to notice for me when the colours all start blending together, especially with the new "enlarge/shrink" anomaly. On the plus side, you get a little extra camera to monitor that dead dude outside or that dead dude in the hall. Once you've found an anomaly or think you found one, you have to hit the report button on the bottom right. Most of the time, you can take as long as you need filling in the correct room and correct thing to report. Sometimes though, you have very limited time as that black abyss growing in the corner of your eye is getting bigger and bigger!! So definitely report quickly, and maybe consider changing cameras until the anomaly is clear for reasons that you will be sure to discover for yourself. The report takes a while to identify the exact thing you put in and clear it if it really is an anomaly. But like Freud used to say, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".
Overall, the gameplay is straightforward, pretty par-for-the-course for security roles. The excitement comes from the cool stuff you get to see and from meeting new friends who shove their faces right into your camera! Each day is different in this stressful and fast-paced environment! The cool thing is: between the two games, you have 4 locations TOTAL to work in! CHANGE. IS. GOOD!!
Story: "New Job, Who Dis?"
The story is…odd. Basically, you're a person with no life who enjoys working the midnight oil! Literally!
You work from Midnight to 6am, assuming you survive. You've been hired for Observation Duty (NAME DROP) by some corporation that deals explicitly with anomalies. Apparently. We don't know the client, where we are, who we're working for, and Timothy (hey, that's me!) exists. We only know this because the sequel, "Timothy's Revenge", implies as much. We also never see him or confirm what he wants revenge for. Maybe we've been reporting him? Or he's the reason these places are all Ground Zero for paranormal activity? Or maybe he's just mad because we keep eating the doughnuts in the breakroom. I mean, he's clearly not going to eat them. The story is not made perfectly clear in both games. However, the second game does introduce a figurehead that welcomes us, telling us if we're failing or straight-up tells us we've died. Thanks, dude. Thanks.
There is a secret ending if you listen to a specific recording somewhere in the first game, but I leave that up to the players to see that. There's definitely some kinda story, but it's clear the gameplay was the main hook.
The sound is eerily perfect! The major downside is there's really no background music, but that actually helps with focusing intensely on any anomalies in the rooms.
The sound is eerily perfect! The major downside is there's really no background music, but that actually helps with focusing intensely on any anomalies in the rooms. You certainly won't be hearing any heavy metal or hard rock music when the hallway stretches out to some unfathomable yards away. You just know Ozzy Osborne would make a song out of that! As for the sound effects alone, the game opens up with sounds that make you question if your speakers or headphones are disconnected or have some loose wires. It's not like the ghost living in your closet broke out and is whispering sweet nothings in your ear (don't look now). Going beyond that, you do get to hear noises from the other room, acting a bit as an indicator that maybe something else is happening. When music does decide to kick in, it's usually timed to a very Twilight Zone-type of anomaly, like when the camera zooms in on a man-baby in a bathroom, and things get REALLY weird. Otherwise, it's just white noise or blank audio space to help set in the paranoia.
Graphics: "Black & White w/ A Side Of Creepy"
. I'd almost chalk it up to a sort of genius, making the player question their sanity, assuming they have any by then.
It's hard to give the graphics any kind of positive or negative criticism here. Both games look better than fine for an Indie game. The problem might just be in the execution here. The first game is in a kind of black and white filter like you'd see through most CCTV screens. The sequel is all colour and easier to see things in theory. The in-game models are decently well made, especially for the humanoid and more "foreign" anomalies. Whenever distortions or visually questionable anomalies occur, they're created via very well-done effects and animations. Just don't look too closely outside the window. You might notice some very minor discrepancies. I'm not just talking about in-game. Just…Do. Not. Look.
As for the second game, it's a lot harder to notice the smaller anomalies now that everything's in colour, despite the models looking just as creepy, or at least, it was for me. Although it's very easy to spot a couple of things right away, as objects could be missing in a room, but the shadow remains. Likewise, an object might appear later where a shadow is, despite the shadow being there first. I'd almost chalk it up to a sort of genius, making the player question their sanity, assuming they have any by then. I know mine left around 5th grade or so. Of course, that might just be due to the game engine's limitations, especially going from a more grey-scale colour scheme to all colours in the sequel. Otherwise, I feel the game could've benefitted better from the first game's design, adding a bit of a creepy factor the sequel tries to deliver.
All things considered, the graphics and designs are solid but also give a Garry's Mod vibe, in a very ridiculous sense. I could swear that guy sitting on your nightstand is G-Man, but all suits tend to look the same to me: creepy and want to steal your money. If nothing else, the devs know how to get creative with how little they worked with!
Value For Money: "Why Did I Need This Job?"
Whether you're looking for a good creepy afternoon or you just want to see a giant ketchup bottle in the kitchen. Each run is much more different than the last, and you can always expect a creepy ride.
Observation Duty 1 and 2 are games that came out just a couple years ago, and they're dirt cheap! At the time of this review, both games are £1.69 ($1.99) and £2.09 ($2.99). Respectively the trilogy is also available for £4.70. There's a lot of replay value here. Dying really means "oh hey kid, wanna try again?". With 4 rooms total between both games, and no run is exactly the same, you really don't know what you'll experience in run 2 and beyond. This review might not even be real, as far as you know! Here today, gone tomorrow, back next week! It's always different, and so are these games, whether you're looking for a good creepy afternoon or you just want to see a giant ketchup bottle in the kitchen. Each run is much more different than the last, and you can always expect a creepy ride. A gift that keeps on giving! Not to mention that secret ending in the first game, it's worth picking up and seeing for yourself how weird and ridiculous things can get.
That being said, they're both very solid indie games! They hammer on enough of the scary/creepy factor but don't shy away from the silly or ridiculousness of floating shampoo bottles or some dude who feels one with his inner avian side in your bedroom
Gameplay: "Do Not Adjust Your Television Screen"
Story: "New Job, Who Dis?"
Graphics: "Black & White w/ A Side Of Creepy"
While it's odd to rate both games at once for a fair review, they both play similarly enough, and there's really nothing to separate them as differing games. That being said, they're both very solid indie games! They hammer on enough of the scary/creepy factor but don't shy away from the silly or ridiculousness of floating shampoo bottles or some dude who feels one with his inner avian side in your bedroom. It can touch a tad bit on the raunchy side, so censor bars might be necessary for the squeamish. It takes itself seriously enough as a psycho-horror game, but without remembering that it is still a game. Don't go into this expecting much of a story, though, as the title "Timothy's Revenge" is all you really get. These games are part of a trilogy, and it's very possible what these games lack is in the third, but I haven't played it as of this review. Still, it's got a lot of good going for it and could be fun if you invite a friendly demon to join in with you! Always helps to have a friendly pair of eyes or three. At only $5 USD, you can't beat it! Try it out, see for yourself
-WARNING!! WARNING!! MULTIPLE ANOMALIES DETECTED!!
Tonnes of Replayability
Great Indie Graphics
Lacking A Soundrack