By Adele Chapline Smith | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Set in a wintry wasteland, the alternate-history game “Paradise Lost” (All in!) explores a young boy’s grief over the loss of his parents.
Grown-ups will find its movement mechanics slow but its story and artwork engrossing. As for kids, however, both challenging topics and references to nonscriptural beliefs make this walking simulator title inappropriate for them.
Instead of culminating in Allied victory, World War II dragged on for decades and only resulted in nuclear destruction. Following the death of his mother in 1980, a 12-year-old lad named Szymon stumbles across a bunker built by the Nazis to preserve their so-called Thousand-Year Reich.
Convinced the complex contains answers about his parentage, Szymon dives into the heart of the underground city. After he discovers that he can communicate with a woman called Ewa over the structure’s intercom system, she becomes something of a guide for him. Together, Szymon and Ewa uncover dark secrets about the people who once lived in the bunker and about Szymon’s own past.
Each of the five chapters into which the two hours of gameplay are divided is named for one of the stages of grief first identified by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
While “Paradise Lost” involves no current violence, the evil legacy of the Nazis looms large within it. This includes a massive armed clash between enslaved Slavic workers and their German overlords as well as pseudo-scientific medical experiments carried out on helpless victims, including children, with no regard for the value or dignity of human life.
In addition to this bleak material, Szymon learns that some of those who toiled in the bunker turned to a Slavic god called Veles for protection in their plight.
More serious in tone and content than many video games, “Paradise Lost” presents a fascinating scenario of what might have been as well as an in-depth examination of bereavement. The result is a beautiful but heart-wrenching experience.
Playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.
The game contains bloody and disturbing images, mature themes and references and occasional rough and coarse language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.