Friday, May 12, 2006

You Can't Go Wrong Opening With A Mutilated Body

Still Life

It's been a long while since I played a decent adventure game, and this one is probably the closest thing to a satisfying entry in the genre that I've seen in a long while (I wasn't a fan of The Longest Journey). I played the demo of Still Life several months ago and found it very promising. Discarding the traditional fantasy and sci-fi setting in favour of a detective noir combined with some police procedural stuff (I actually liked that CSI game of Heidi's that I played years ago) is a smart idea for giving the genre some more life. It looked kind of like a modern, gorier, sexier, darker Police Quest.

The game is very good in some ways and very bad in others. The bad aspects include atrocious voice acting and dialogue, and the game's low difficulty. Every puzzle is pretty trivial and obvious to solve, which is a nice change from the headache inducing stupidity of some older adventure games' puzzles, but a bit more challenge would have been an improvement. The good aspects include the bug free, smooth gameplay and the excellent art (going back out to the options menu feels like having needles stuck in your eyes in comparison to the pretty in-game graphics). The only bug I encountered is that the character model of our protagonist, FBI agent Victoria McPherson (apparently some poor overworked graphic artists idea of dark and sexy) occasionally has holes appear in the back of her head.

The plot is both good and bad. In one thread Victoria's grandfather tracks down a serial killer (who is also an artist) in 1930s Prague, and in the other Victoria hunts down a copycat in modern day Chicago. The bad aspects arise mostly because they use not only every cliché in the adventure game book (dual plot lines in different time periods, pointless supernatural elements) but also every one in the police thriller book (complete with Victoria angrily handing in her badge to the know nothing boss who tries to tie her hands with red tape and regulations damn it!). But by and large it overcomes the clichés with a few original ideas, the art angle is a fresh one and it gives the game just enough style to make it worthwhile, while also providing a unique source for finding clues to puzzle solving within the game (as the copycat killer tries to recreate scenes from the original murderers art).

The graphic design on this game is really well done and combined with the dark and nasty plot goes a long way towards creating a really good modern noir sort of mood. Unfortunately it's all let down by the awful dialogue. The story is left wide open for a sequel so hopefully the developers will do better on their next attempt.


andrew brown said...

how do you find so much time in your life to play games listen to music and read books? are you a student? ;0

Jon said...

Unemployment. The solution to all life's problems.

fairy princess said...

I think there is a market for more of these types of games. I personally hate fighting in games, so I look for games with less fighting, and more story/adventure/mystery...When I look for this I don't find alot usually

fairy princess said...

the csi game was good, but maybe a little short

Jon said...

You're quite right, these are the kind of games they need to make more of if the games industry wants to expand their market.

Of course when they do make games like this they don't market them right so they're labelled commercial failures and are forgotten about.