Review: QT

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The horror genre is large enough now that it can splinter into increasingly specific sub-genres, such as “games that start out cute and then turn sinister”. I only mention that here because QT seemingly opens in the same place, but then never, ever takes that turn into horror. It’s an absurdly cute, happy, upbeat game that feels like it’s covering for something in these dark and sinister times, except it isn’t. This is the real deal, an earnest, joyful game about finding friends and exploring cute places, and there’s more than enough of both to satisfy anyone’s need for warm fuzzies.

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QT, as you might have gathered from the name, started off as a parody of PT, the now-legendary playable teaser Hideo Kojima put out for a new Silent Hill. In that little slice of terror, you explored a repeating L-shaped hall in a perfectly normal home, with each cycle making it increasingly clear that things were absolutely not normal. QT goes the opposite route, taking a very similar hallway but making the situation cuter and cuter with every cycle. To expand on this utterly charming concept for the Steam release, the creator added two more areas to explore, the Museum and the Kouen (Japanese for park), which dispense with the sinister overtones of QT entirely and just give you a happy playground to noodle around in.

I shouldn’t have to explain what it is that makes QT so dang cute if you can see these screenshots, but it’s worth talking about just how complete the experience is. Every single person, animal, or animate thing you encounter here is a happy, adorable, 2D creation straight from MSPaint. They come in every shade of the rainbow, dogs and foxes and alligators and juice pitchers and globular creatures alike. Many of them make goofy squeaks or honks when you interact with them, but in general they exist to populate the world and make it a better place to explore. The environments are similarly charming; the QT segment obviously focuses more on the semi-realistic hallway of PT but still fills it with dance parties and family gatherings to make it feel cozy. Museum and Kouen are crafted from much brighter colors and rounder shapes, completing the impression that their inhabitants exude.

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As for what you can do in QT, the main draw is undoubtedly exploration. It’s honestly a huge pleasure just to tool around and see all the happy characters crafted for this goofy thing. And with a game like this, you can be sure there are tons of weird, equally-adorable secrets tucked away to uncover. The interaction options are different for each of the three areas, too. For example, you can jump in Museum and Kouen, but have to uncover a secret to do so in QT. You also get a camera in Kouen that you don’t in the others, which is used for some new interactions. Folks needing more direction in their games than this can look to the achievements, which are expansive and give plenty of hints towards the more obscure (and hilarious) secrets. Still, with no way to “win” or “complete” the areas, the emphasis is much more on exploring and experiencing than chasing after specific goals.

I really think games like QT deserve more credit, because it’s not easy to make something so relentlessly joyful to experience. I could knock together smiley people in MSPaint and stuff them into rooms but it wouldn’t have a fraction of the charm or genuine happiness you’ll find here. The good dogs and sleepy foxes of QT exist to make you feel better, to give you a place to escape to where nothing is wrong and everything is a pleasant little surprise. Games like this can easily become too cloying or memey or twee or whatever you want to call it, but not this one. QT is the real deal for a nice time in cute places, with no shortage of nice or cute things to find as it lifts your spirits just by being what it is.

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