Title: Michigan (aka Michigan: Report From Hell)
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Year: 2004 (JP), 2005 (PAL)
Take a game with a storyline involving zombies, good-looking news reporters and chances to be as horrible person as you want. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, Michigan is not that game.
The story of Michigan seems simple enough. A strange fog descends over Chicago, Michigan. Yes, that’s right, Chicago, Michigan. Go check your maps. The government evacuate all their people, seeing as though monsters and zombies are around everywhere, but are dumb enough to allow a TV crew to roll on in and risk their lives for the sake of ‘news’.
Fine. Fine, I can deal with that. But the game does not explain this fact very well, and I found myself constantly going back to the booklet to re-read the storyline to make sure I still knew what was going on. In other words, Michigan is chock-full of plot holes.
A cool thing about the storyline though, is the fact that your actions affects it. Well, not really. It more decides which reporter you get next.
For example, my reporter is about to be attacked. If I step in and save her, I stick with her for another level. If I let her be attacked, she dies, and I go to a completely different stage with a completely different reporter. It’s a pretty nifty way of making the story flow, but it is possible to miss a good chunk of the game due to ‘jumping around the plot’.
Overall: Michigan’s story did hold some potential, but ultimately, it got too ridiculous, too repetitive, and too full of red herrings.
The graphics are mediocre. The environments look nice enough as long as you don’t take your time checking them out.
But the characters lack any real facial expressions in-game, preferring to keep a pleasant smile on their faces as shocking plot twists occur. The FMVs look rather nice,though.
Overall: Nothing special here.
The game’s soundtrack was composed by none other than Masafumi Takada, the guy who did the music for God Hand and most of GHM’s other games. Call it bias, but I enjoyed the music in the game quite a bit.
I can’t say the same for the voice acting. It is truly terrible. Everyone whines and carries on, and your reporters have high-pitched, 13 year-old girl voices. Not to mention they all either sound too happy, too bored, or too dramatic.
Overall: Ok, I’ll be kind and give this a three. But only because the music was good.
Topdrunkee's note: I've heard that Michigan actually takes place in Chicago near Lake Michigan. Which is where the title Michigan comes from. Not that I would know personally. I've never played this game, and I doubt I ever will after reading this review.
Michigan is all about ‘tagging’, or, as it is quickly translated to in-game, seeing where yellow dots appear so you can press the X button and hopefully make something interesting happen. It is quite rare that anything interesting does happen, though. However, if you tag anything that the game registers as being suspenseful, it plays a loud noise accompanied by a spooky little theme. Unfortunately, things that should (in my opinion) be classified as suspenseful or just plain creepy are often overlooked and things that are stupid (such as the sound technician saying that a painting has been well-done) earn the eerie noise.
In this game, the polar opposite of suspense is eroticism. While suspense usually involves you running around filming things like pots floating for no reason, eroticism pretty much consists of you crouching in front (or behind) a reporter and pointing the camera squarely at their crotch or ass. However, you can also increase your erotic points by finding dirty magazines or websites left up on computer screens and tagging them.
The so-called erotic aspect of the game feels tacked on and pointless; however, apparently if you gain enough erotic points, you unlock some kind of video that features all the fine lady reporters. It’s been reported that there is a bug in the European version that crashes the game if you do try and watch it though.
The last, and probably most hilarious aspect of the game is ‘immoral’. This basically comes about when you do immoral (obviously) things such as ramming into your reporter or the sound technician for no reason (as opposed to doing so to knock them out of harm’s way) or filming someone as they are being killed. Nothing like a good ol’ fashioned snuff film. Nothing special really happens if you gain lots of immoral points though, unless you really like hearing your reporter say “Ow! You’re a big jerk!” in a whiny voice. Or if you want to knock them over for the sole purpose of filming up their skirts.
How do you know if you’re getting a suspenseful or erotic scoop, though? And how do you know how immoral you’re being? That’s what the bar at the top of the screen is for. When you begin a level, you start in the middle of the bar. As you film, you’ll find that the marker in the middle will gradually begin to slide left or right, depending on what you’ve decided to tag. However, immoral points are indicated by a red bar which (to quote the booklet) ‘will seep from the center towards both icons simultaneously’.
Another feature of the screen are the little arrows that appear on the edges to signify which direction your reporter has run off in. “Oh, that sounds handy!” You might say, especially if you read the booklet. Let me just say now, that it is possibly the most useless thing in-game. Not to mention that your reporters dart off in random directions and seemingly disappear. For example, one particular location in the game comes to mind. It was a ridiculously simple stage, but due to the poor level design and terrible reporter indicator, I spent literally half an hour on one particular stage looking for my reporter.
Remember those nifty button-pressing ‘minigames’ in God of War that were initiated when you had done enough damage to an enemy? Michigan has something like that. Kind of. Except about twenty times less exciting and a billion times less frequent. These button sequences appear during cutscenes and involve you helping the person or saving them from certain doom, i.e. Pulling someone off a railroad track before they meet a grisly end via train. Choose to help the person and the person, well, lives. Choose not to, and you receive a rather large amount of immoral points. And when I said ‘a billion times less frequent’, I meant it. In God of War, they happened about once a minute. In myentire playthrough of Michigan, I believe I only ran into about two or three.
Overall: The game uses some interesting techniques, but they were employed quite badly and the game moves quite slowly. This makes the game feel like a chore to play.
Michigan is a rather unspectacular game, one that makes you step back and wonder “Was this REALLY by the same guys who brought me Killer7, Contact, and The Silver Case?” It’s not exactly something I’d recommend to anyone, unless they are:
A) GHM and/or Suda51 and/or Masafumi Takada fans who wish to say “Yeah, I’ve played that. It wasn’t so great”. B) People who wish to be frustrated more often; or C) People who are turned on by filming the badly rendered crotches of half-witted women.
If you’re not one of those people, don’t waste your time.