Harvester (video game)
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|This article is missing information about the game's controversy. (January 2015)|
European cover art
Virgin Interactive (Europe)
Night Dive Studios (Steam)
|Designer(s)||Gilbert P. Austin|
|Release date(s)||September 25, 1996
March 6, 2014 (GOG.com)
April 4, 2014 (Steam)
Harvester is a point-and-click adventure computer game written and directed by Gilbert P. Austin. The game was designed by DigiFX Interactive and published by Merit Studios in 1996. On March 6, 2014, Lee Jacobson re-released it in GOG.com, for PC and Mac. On April 4, 2014, Night Dive Studios re-released it in Steam for PC and Linux.
Harvester was first announced to public at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 1994 in Las Vegas. The dark and blasphemous content of the game drew a huge amount of attention and created a lot of expectations. The writer/director Gilbert P. Austin was against any kind of censorship and he wanted the game to serve as an examination of the controversy about whether violence in media creates, or is created by, violence in society. Austin finished the creative work in autumn 1994 and moved on to the other projects. The game was supposed to be released during the same year but for some reason it took two more years to finish the programming. The delay was fatal and Harvester was a commercial failure. However the game managed to cause controversy. In Europe the scene where kids were eating their mother was censored and in Germany the game was banned. Today Harvester is known for its cult following.
The game stars Steve, who awakes with a case of amnesia in a strange town in 1953 called Harvest. He can't remember anything from his past and when he tells the people that claim to be his family, as well as townsfolk, they all tell him what a kidder he is. All of the town inhabitants are extremely eccentric and many appear to be more a satire or stereotype than real people. They all continuously stress to Steve that he should join the Lodge, which is a large building located at the center of town that serves as the headquarters of the Order of the Harvest Moon. Steve visits the Sergeant at Arms at the Lodge, who tells him that all of his questions will be answered inside the building. To enter, he must first join the Order of the Harvest Moon. But in order to join, he must perform a series of tasks that range from simple vandalism to arson for his initiation.
While snooping around town, performing these various tasks and learning more about this bizarre and corrupt town, Steve visits the Pottsdam residence. Here he meets the overweight and perverted Mr. Pottsdam, who tells Steve that he is to marry his daughter, Stephanie, in a few weeks. Steve meets his alleged wife-to-be upstairs and she explains that she has amnesia as well, and, like Steve, notices that something doesn't seem right about the town. Over a series of days Steve successfully performs all of the required tasks and when he visits Stephanie in her room, he finds nothing but a mutilated skull and spinal cord. He takes it to the Sergeant of Arms and asks him if this is really the remains of Stephanie, to which the Sergeant explains that, inside the Lodge, he will learn the truth, and grants Steve access.
Inside the Lodge Steve visits three floors consisting of mayhem and murder. He must solve various puzzles along the way as well as visit different rooms, referred to as “temples” by their occupants, where he must take on several moral decisions. Eventually he makes it to the Inner Sanctum, where he talks to Principal Herrill of Harvest's Gein Memorial School, who explains that he is second in command of the Harvest Order and is to be addressed as Vice Muck Herrill. The head of the Harvest Order, the Grand Muckity Muck, shares a few short words with Steve, and then attacks him. Steve successfully kills the Grand Muckity Muck and meets the Sergeant at Arms one last time.
He reveals Stephanie to him, who is alive but hooked up to a special torture device, which gave her pain whenever Steve climbed a rope in the Lodge. He releases her from the device and explains to Steve that everything in Harvest is created by a virtual reality simulator, which he and Stephanie are hooked up to. The Sergeant at Arms explains that this simulation was created in hopes of successfully turning Steve into a serial killer in real life. He then gives Steve a final ultimatum: Marry and live out the rest of his life and die of old age with Stephanie in the virtual reality that is Harvest or kill Stephanie, where she will die in real life but Steve will be released and free to live in the real world as a serial killer.
Serial killer ending
If the player chooses to kill Stephanie, they are then shown a film sequence during which Steve beats Stephanie to death and then removes her skull and spinal cord. After the murder is complete, Steve awakens within the virtual reality simulator. Then the player see Steve hitchhiking in a car where he brutally murders the driver. Steve returns home, where he plays Harvester with his computer. His mother disapproves the game and criticizes violence in video games by saying that people who watch violence commit violence. Steve ridicules his mother's assertions and laughs at her comparison of violent media to "Road Runner cartoons."
Virtual reality ending
If the player chooses to spare Stephanie's life, the Sergeant at Arms expresses disappointment that Steve would choose this ending. Steve says that he'd rather die than become a serial killer, to which the Sergeant at Arms responds that he should enjoy his life "such as it is". The player then views a sequence of clips during which Steve marries Stephanie in a ceremony officiated by the Sergeant at Arms and the two have a child together. Their graves are then shown, followed by the death of their bodies in real life as their virtual lives only lasted a few minutes.
- Kurt Kistler as Steve Mason
- Ryan Wickerham as the voice of Steve
- Lisa Cangelosi as Stephanie
- Kevin Obregon as Sergeant at Arms / Technician #1
- Ryan Wickerham as the voice of Sergeant at Arms
- Mary Allen as Mom / Mrs. Pottsdam / Generic PTA Moms
- Gilbert P. Austin as Mr. Moynahan
- Nelson Knight as Sheriff Dwayne
- Bob Cawley as Mr. Johnson
- Graham Teschke as Col. Buster Monroe
- Tracy Odell as Dark Exotic Woman (as Tracy Napodano)
- Mike Napodano as Cue Card Man / Technician #2
- Michael Napodano Jr. as Baby Sister
- Tim Higgins as Chessmaster
- Rheagan Wallace as Karin
- Roxanne Lovseth as Edna Fitzpatrick
- Travis Miller as Mr. Pottsdam
- Tom Lima as Kewpie
- Christopher Ammons as Jimmy James
- Charles Beecham as Postmaster Boyle
- Jack Irons as Grand Poobah
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The game's play is done through a point and click interface. Players must visit various locations within the game's fictional town of Harvest, which can be done via an overhead map. By speaking to various townspeople and clicking on special "hotspots", players can learn information and collect items that progress the game's story and play. Harvester also features a fighting system where players can attack other characters by selecting a weapon and then clicking on the target. Both the target and the player's character have a limited amount of health available, allowing for either the player or the target to die. Players can choose to progress through the game by solving puzzles or by killing one of the non-playable characters.
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Critical reception for Harvester has been mixed to negative and the game currently holds a rating of 53 on Metacritic, based upon 8 reviews. PC Gamer initially gave Harvester a positive review upon its initial release, but panned it in a 2011 review where they called it the "goriest, most confusing, and above all stupidest horror game ever." Allgame remarked that the game's delayed release negatively impacted Harvester's reception, as the game felt "dated" to them when it "finally arrived on shelves". They went on to say that they felt that this was indicative of the game as a whole, as "conversations with characters are frustrating and often make little sense, plus the manner in which the plot develops is disappointing." GameSpot's review was mixed, as they felt that there was "nothing actually revolutionary going on in Harvester" but praised the game's full-motion video segments as "truly disturbing" and commented that it had "tried-and-true adventure mechanics with entertaining twists". Upon its release, several reviewers compared the game's setting to works by David Lynch.
After GOG.com and Steam rereleased Harvester as a downloadable version in 2014 the user reviews on both platforms have been mostly praising. On GOG.com the average rating is four stars out of five. On Steam the average rating is "Very Positive".
Harvester has a fan page on Facebook which produces and releases interviews with the designers and actors of the game. The fan page releases also behind-the-scenes photos, unused graphics, old advertisements, and other fan stuff. On YouTube there's "The Harvester Show" which presents and analyses the original material which was used to create the game.
- Elston, Brett. "The bloodiest games you've never played". Games Radar. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Computer Gaming World, Volumes 150-153. Golden Empire Publications. 1997.
- GOG.com (2014-03-06). "Release: Harvester". cdp.pl.
- Valve Corporation (2014-04-04). "Now Available on Steam - Harvester". Steam.
- Malin, Aarno. "Inside Harvester - A Fan Interview with Gilbert P. Austin". GOG.com. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Harvester (PC)". MetaCritic. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Cobbett, Richard. "Saturday Crapshoot: Harvester". PC Gamer. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- "Harvester (review)". PC Gamer (via Metacritic). Dec 1996. p. 82. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- "Harvester (review)". Allgame. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Hudak, Chris. "Harvester Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 27 January 2014.