Written by: Lindenbree
(Note: The "---" signifies a time lapse. I've seen something similar done in books before, and I like it. So that's why they're there in case anyone was curious about that!)
My Playstation 2 broke a long time ago, and I never got around to replacing it. Recently however, my friend allowed me to borrow hers. It didn't take much time to figure out what I wanted to play on it. When I was a child, I had a video game called Dark Cloud. It was an interesting story about a boy who had to collect broken pieces of the world and put it back together. Although I enjoyed the game, I never had a chance to play its sequel due to the untimely death of my beloved console. Unable to play, I settled with watching playthroughs of the sequel on YouTube, so I know exactly how the game goes. Now though, I have a chance to actually play it myself!
I don't know anyone who owns Dark Cloud 2, so I decide to find a copy online. As I search through the used copies on Amazon, the page suddenly refreshes itself. Did I accidentally hit F5? Well, anyway, I look at the offers again and notice one I didn't see before. It's a used copy in acceptable condition, priced at $6.99. That is so cheap! The description reads: "Disc has minor scratches. Does not come with case. Plays as intended." I regard the offer with suspicion. The other copies are all at least twenty dollars, this cost is ridiculously low. I assume "plays as intended" means the game works but… if that's true, why is it so cheap? After some consideration, I decide to buy the game anyway. If it does work it will be well worth the price and if it doesn't, I didn't lose much.
In three days, the game arrives. I see what I suppose is the title and artwork on the front of the disc, but it's very faded and hard to make out. I turn the disc over and see that it's covered in scratches, some of them very deep. Well that's just great. I put the disc into my friend's console and wait. Unsurprisingly "Disc read error" displays on the screen. I clean the disc and try again. This time it actually works. Soon the game opening plays and I smile at the wonderful music and beautiful graphics. I start a new game and am given the option to choose an outfit for the main character, Max. Every outfit comes with a large red pendant, a stone he wears that unbeknownst to him, has magical properties. After messing with the outfits, I decide go with Max's default clothing. Finally, I get to play this!
I played through the beginning of the game with no problems and got to the point where Max tried to go to the circus, but a little boy stole his ticket. After talking with the townsfolk, a cutscene is triggered. I watch Max tackle the boy down and take the ticket back, only to be persuaded to let the boy keep it. The boy starts to run off but then turns around. I know what should happen next, the background becomes black, the boy says something vague about "passing" and being "able to do it" and then disappears, leaving the ticket behind and Max confused. But this doesn't happen. Instead the game begins to lag until it freezes. I feel my heart sink. Well, the game did have a lot of scratches… I guess this is to be expected. I wait in silence, listening to the console strain itself in an attempt to play out the cutscene. Just as I'm about to restart the game, the screen changes. I see a new background has come in, but it's red instead of black. The boy speaks, but his dialogue isn't intelligible because the audio is glitching like the rest of the game. Then everything on the screen turns red for a few moments... and then flickers back to normal. The cut scene is over, and I'm in control of the game again. I check my inventory and the ticket is there, as it should be. Well… I'm lucky the game didn't have to be reset. Now to get through the other cutscenes, hopefully they'll work properly.
After entering the circus tent, Max watches the circus with glee. I hold out on my enthusiasm though, not sure how long the game would continue to function. Everything plays out normally and eventually Max hears a strange voice and checks it out. We see Flotsam interrogate the mayor about a stone, as per usual. The deranged clown then attacks the mayor by whacking him with his cane. The mayor falls to the floor, blood dripping from his mouth. My eyes widen. I've seen this scene before, but it's not supposed to be that graphic. Nothing in this game is supposed to be that graphic. Flotsam begins to choke the mayor, until his face turns blue. Then he throws him to floor and kicks him over and over again, the mayor crying out in pain every time. I drop the controller in shock, just as Max knocks a can over. The brutal assault ceases as Flotsam focuses his attention on the source of the noise. "Who are you?" shouts the deranged clown. The mayor, beaten into unconsciousness, says nothing. Panicked, Max runs away. At this point, a light hearted chase scene is supposed to occur, but the game lags again until it freezes.
...What the hell just happened? Maybe the game has been hacked? That was just… sick. Regardless of what the reason is, I suppose I should record this at least. It's… unusual, so maybe people would be interested in watching it. I leave to find my camera.
Upon returning, I see the game is still frozen. I set up the camera and record the screen. Then I turn the lights down so the video quality would be slightly less crappy, and the volume up to make sure the sound is picked up by the camera. I double check to make sure it's actually recording, then try skipping the cutscene to continue this creepy game. The game responds by lagging a bit more, and then freezing again. Great, my last save was right before the circus incident. I don't want to watch that violent scene again but I suppose it's worth it to have it recorded. I reset the game, start up my file, enter the circus tent and… the game starts lagging. I skip the cutscene as fast as I can, not wanting the game to freeze yet again. What is even the point of having a hacked copy if it barely works? The game loads and this time the cutscene actually does skip. I'm in control of the game again and Max is in the streets of his city, Palm Brinks. The next playable segment should be in the sewers, not in the city. There is no sound at all, not even the usual night time sound effects. I glance towards the camera to see that it's still recording. I move Max forward, only for him to fall over as a giant clown robot lands behind him, shaking the ground and breaking the silence. This is supposed to happen in a cutscene, but now it appears during the gameplay with Flotsam riding the robot. "Now boy, shall we begin then?" Flotsam asks his robot. Halloween starts towards Max so I move the analog stick forward, forcing him to run. We run and run down an alley until Max's friend, Donny appears. "Max, this way!" shouts Donny, motioning to an alleyway. We run to Donny… but Halloween makes a leap and gets there first, landing on him. I wince and Max screams. The robot takes a step towards us. As it lifts its foot up, Donny's blood and guts drip from it, his mangled organs hitting the ground with a squishy thud. I try to make Max run away, but he won't move.
"Hand over the pendant, boy!" demands Flotsam. The pendant he's referring to is a large stone Max wears. Although Max doesn't know it yet, the stone has magical properties that would yield disaster should it fall into the wrong hands. "Hand it over now and I'll let you leave here alive!" I press several buttons, trying to make the game respond, but nothing happens. The characters are silent for a few moments and I wait, unable to do anything. "Well, what's it gonna be?" asks Flotsam. Two options then appear on the screen, "No, I won't!" and "Take it!". Oh, I can interact with the game now? I try pausing but nothing happens. I guess I have to pick one then. Max is supposed to refuse to hand over the stone and the player is supposed to have no input on that decision. I decide to choose "Take it!", to see what would happen. Surely it can't be any worse than the previous events. I hit "X" to confirm the choice I make. The screen turns red, and a voice says "You failed." An extremely loud white noise sounds from the television and I nearly fall out of my chair from surprise. I glance around for the remote and unable to find it, lunge forward and turn off the console, leaving the room in silence. I find myself shaking, so after a few calming breaths I turn the lights back on and check the camera to see how the recording went. The camera is off. The battery was not running low, so why did it turn off? I turn it back on and see that nothing was recorded at all. But… I checked it many times to make sure it was working. Exhausted and unnerved, I decide to try again tomorrow.
The next day I try to play the game, but get a "Disc read error". While cleaning the disc, I notice small red letters on the bottom of the faded artwork. "You failed." Was that there before? Trying not to think about it, I attempt to play the game again. But "Disc read error" keeps occurring no matter what I try. So much for showing this demented game to others. I decide to go back to Amazon and write a review on the one I bought the disc from, warning people that the product I'd gotten was damaged and hacked. I can't remember the name of the seller, so I look through my internet history trying to find it. It's not there… I check several times but the webpage isn't there. I then check my purchase history on Amazon and it's not there either. After many futile attempts to find the seller, it eventually dawns on me: I have no proof that this ever happened. All there is, is a disc that won't play.