P.A.M.E.L.A.

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
P.A.M.E.L.A. Game Poster Image
Violent pandemic survival in futuristic (and glitchy) world.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Despite the game simply being about survival, there's still something positive to be found in its focus on the ingenuity required to do so. Being able to overcome obstacles, to learn on the fly, and to manage yourself and your surroundings in crisis situations are all positive messages that the game does a great job of getting across to players.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There aren't really any positive or negative role models. The main character is, literally, an expendable shell. Meanwhile, the enemies tend to be either suffering humans or robots following their programming. In fact, based on individual behavior and player actions, some of the "enemies" could switch sides to become allies. Even the titular P.A.M.E.L.A. AI isn't really good or evil but generally just reacts to the decisions of the player.

Ease of Play

While the first-person action is fairly straightforward, the rest of the gameplay can get a bit more complex. Aside from the usual inventory management in many survival horror games, players must also watch out for basic human needs such as food, while also managing resources to create and maintain safe havens. This includes adjusting power consumption of various districts to keep those safe havens operational. The game also features permadeath, forcing players to restart the game entirely (albeit with certain skills and money left intact).

Violence

Combat is not a constant occurrence in P.A.M.E.L.A. In fact, you're more likely to die from starvation or infection than you are from combat. However, when you're attacked, you're normally attacked by swarms of Afflicted or overpowering robotic Guardians. A fair amount of blood spills in combat from human enemies, and there is plenty of gore, as the Afflicted humans are shown with bones growing through their bodies, their skin ripped apart, and other grotesque deformities.

Sex
Language

There is occasional use of profanity, particularly in Diary entries that can be collected over the course of the game.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Players have to eat and drink to survive in the game, and some of the available drinks are alcoholic beverages such as whiskey and moonshine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that P.A.M.E.L.A. is a downloadable survival horror game. Players must fight against biologically diseased humans called Afflicted, using a variety of futuristic weapons, including energy blades, poison darts, and other scavenged weapons. There's a fair amount of gore, not only from the Afflicted but also from the corpses of humans who haven't survived infection. This includes exposed muscles and bones, as well as skin ripped from bodies in agonizing mutilations. While the game's controls are fairly easy to learn, there's a lot of micromanagement required, not only for resources to build safe havens but for basic human necessities such as food and drink, some of which include alcohol.

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What's it about?

P.A.M.E.L.A. is a story of survival in a futuristic world. You're a citizen in the utopian city of Eden. After being pulled out of cryosleep, you discover the once wondrous city is now falling apart. It's still operational, but it's no longer the paradise it once was. Due to the pandemic outbreak of a mysterious disease, the population of Eden has either died or been driven insane from its painful manifestations. Left alone and with danger lurking around every corner, your only priority is to survive. To do so, you'll need to salvage what you can from the world around you: food, water, shelter, and weapons. You'll need to build your base camp, manage your resources, fight through Afflicted and other foes, and even work with the city itself through its AI administrator, P.A.M.E.L.A., if you have any hope whatsoever of living to see another day. Fail, and you're dead. But don't worry -- P.A.M.E.L.A. has made sure there are more people in cryosleep ready to take to your place when you do.

Is it any good?

Even in the glitzy and glamorous neon paradise of a high-tech utopia, just surviving to see another day can be a gritty and grueling task. At least that's the case in P.A.M.E.L.A., the futuristic survival horror game. One thing is certain: You're going to die … many, many times and in many, many ways. You might be ripped apart by mutants limb from limb, you may be considered a threat by a robot, or you could simply die of hunger and dehydration. No matter how you go, the fact remains that you will have to learn from your mistakes. The game features a permadeath gameplay style, meaning that when you die in the game, you immediately take over as a new resident brought out of cryosleep to try to survive the horrors of Eden. All your weapons and inventory are gone, but you're not quite a blank slate. Your experience, abilities, and currency carry over from the previous life. Still, at least at the start, it can be a very frustrating, repetitive experience, especially when you think you've finally made some significant progress, only to die and start over because of some random, procedurally generated threat. This happens less and less as you get more abilities, but it never stops that pain of losing everything you worked so hard to build.

It's easy to toss someone into the unknown and just tell them "don't die," but the reality of the situation is much more complex. There's a lot the player has to manage at any given time. Your inventory space is limited, your resources are sparse, you need to manage the city's power grid to help keep your makeshift camp(s) operational, and you need to keep a constant eye on your health to make sure you don't drop dead at a moment's notice. All of this is happening on top of combat. If the clunky combat controls are any indication, the folks in Eden cryosleep chambers aren't exactly trained fighters. Trying to fend off attackers feels sluggish and, many times, is barely effective. Even at higher levels, it's too easy to get swarmed, overpowered, and otherwise slaughtered. Right now, though, the biggest threat you'll face isn't death. After all, death is easy … it's the glitches that are rough. Couple excruciatingly long load times with freezing and game-ending crashes, and it sometimes feels like you're spending more time in load screens than actually playing. Make no mistake, though -- when the game is running on all cylinders, it's an amazing experience not like anything else in the genre. There's just still a decent bit of work that needs to be done to make the technical aspects of the game as pristine as the city of Eden used to be.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Is the violence in this game dangerous because it's against human (or human-like) opponents? Is it OK because the setting is completely unrealistic?

  • Talk about crisis planning. What are some important plans to have in place in case of an emergency? What sort of supplies and essentials should always be on hand?

  • Discuss fight or flight. When is it better to avoid a conflict, and when is it better to face it head on?

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