Every iteration of Norco, from the game’s initial demo to the release of the first act, has clarified its weird, haunting voice that little bit more. That’s an obvious enough observation, but it was a voice that promised more than most. And as each iteration expanded the art’s dimensions, that voice’s potential was amplified. Still, I was uncertain of its reach. Now Norco has arrived, having deliriously flung open its doors, and my first trip down the rabbit hole is over.
Thinking about it some hours later, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best games ever made – or at least a fresh direction of travel for the medium.
The introduction of Detective Francis McQueen and his sidekick, Officer Patrick Dooley, in 2017’s comedy horror point-and-click, The Darkside Detective, was an unexpected delight. The strange and kooky world of Twin Lakes didn’t take the ‘horror’ bit all that seriously; it was much happier indulging obscure film references and finding innuendo everywhere.
And we were all the better for it.
The sequel, A Fumble in the Dark, is much the same, only bigger and carried off with a confidence born of its developers knowing they’ve crafted a winning duo, milking it for all it’s worth – albeit a little too much at times.
The Council is an adventure game set in 1793. Playing as Louis De Richet the first episode titled The Mad Ones begins with an invitation to a mysterious island by the secretive Lord Mortimer. Unsure of the reason for your presence on the island or that of the other bold characters, many questions are raised in your mind. Having recently been informed about the disappearance of your mother you have reason to believe that she may be on the island but know little more than that. It is your intention to discover the motives behind your mothers disappearance and piece together the goals of the other guests who all seem to have their own strange stories.
Character development is a key part of The Council‘s unique approach to the adventure genre. Adding RPG elements to a point and click game is certainly a new direction and one that feels like it’s been implemented well for the most part. The first thing to notice is that you have to choose one of the three skill trees; Diplomat, Occultist or Detective and then further advance this tree with specific talents. I chose the Detective tree as this is a mystery game after all and I wanted to feel adept at spotting the smallest of clues. From this tree I can choose to further advance my Questioning, Psychology, Vigilance, Logic and Agility skills with each point added meaning using these skills during main gameplay costs less ‘effort’.
Effort is a points based resource that can gathered and used during main gameplay. You start with six points of effort and utilising skills from your chosen tree uses a couple of these points or less depending on your skill advancements. The good thing is that just because you chose a certain tree doesn’t mean you will always be locked out of skills from other trees, it just means they will cost a lot more effort. Running out of effort is not something you will want to do as it usually means things will not go your way. People will see through your motives, you will miss hidden clues and some conversation topics will be closed off to you.
In past adventure games when making key decisions you are sometimes tricked into feeling as if you have majorly affected a plot, dialogue or outcome in some way but with The Council this – at least initially – doesn’t seem to be the case. Depending on how you developed your character you are literally locked out of some options as your talents have not been improved. This might sound a bit unusual but it fits well and the RPG element helps you role play the story and become more involved in it.
During conversations you can use items to help sway the outcome in your favour, unfortunately the inventory and item usage is not the most intuitive. There are four items that help you with things like gaining effort points and discovering character weaknesses but learning what these do and which symbol corresponds to which during the heat of a conversation took me a while to get used to.
Occasionally during conversations you will have a confrontation with another character. During the confrontation the opposing character is basically sussing out your integrity and your aims. This is an interesting part of the game that unfortunately seems too rushed to enjoy properly. Between the amount of text on screen, the timed dialogue answering and balancing the use of items I find it hard to focus properly during these moments, meaning I occasionally miss out on lines of dialogue or text. As enjoyable as these sections are I feel they should be a lot more manageable and streamlined.
Voice acting in The Council can be a bit hit and miss. During the thick of things It’s often quite good, but there are the odd moments where things sound awkward or unusual especially with the protagonist and this can be off-putting. Unfortunately the exact same goes for the script writing. During most conversations and narration the script is good, but again there is always the odd line that stands out as slightly strange. The developers Big Bad Wolf hail from France and I wonder if somewhere along the line the translation has not been handled in the best way. It’s only minor however and for some people this might not even be an issue at all.
One area the developers have really nailed is the design of the game and the character design especially is great. Each character has a strong and memorable image that makes them stand out as individuals and is among the best design I have seen in recent games. The level design is also top notch. Never did I feel like anything was out of place or that repeated textures and items had been used in a way that seemed lazy. Every room and building had bold and unique design.
After this introductory first episode I’ve been left with an overall good impression of The Council. I’m very interested to see where it goes with the rest of the episodes, how the characters and story develop and how the choices you make in the game really affect it.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox One, PS4
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.
Yesterday, our Five for Five series kicked off with a Q&A with the brothers De Angelis, the duo behind Detective Gallo, a point-and-click noir adventure with a sense of humour. Oh, and a bird as the protagonist and a devastating multiple plant murder to solve. …
There’s no denying it, the stand out attribute of Tormentum: Dark Sorrow is the brilliantly twisted artwork that fills this dark fantasy world with it’s unusual beings, scarred landscapes and hauntingly attractive design. In fact if it wasn’t for the incredible amounts of artwork, Tormentum would lose a lot of its character, however disturbing that character really is! At first glance Tormentum’s shadowy figure doesn’t seem like the kind that would be well suited to the point and click/adventure genre. But the game mechanics are implemented well and I never found myself scratching my head at an impossible combination of items or an unworkable puzzle as I have done with so many others. In fact I found Tormentum‘s puzzles to be a little on the easy side and I was able to enjoyably fly through the game in little over three hours.
Another thing I wasn’t entirely sure about to begin with was the silent protagonist and the games way of not really telling you much about him and how he came to be. Developers OhNoo studio explain this by means of the good old cliché of memory loss and I feel that there is a missed opportunity here to add lore and detail to the wonderfully designed world. I should point out that by the end of the game this sticking point had more than ironed itself out however and I was enjoying the freedom of imagination surrounding his past life. In fact much of what the character becomes is made through moral choices you encounter on your travels. There are a number of these choices throughout the game that directly effect the story and how you proceed in minor ways. There are also multiple endings in Tormentum that depend on your decision making and mean another playthough of the game is entirely viable if you want to discover all the outcomes for youself.
I find it hard to write a full review about a game that only lasts three hours and doesn’t have all that much of a journey in terms of written dialogue and back story. Instead Tormrntum’s strong points come from allowing you to have the imagination of what it would be like in the amazingly drawn world and to create the protagonists characteristics through the choices and decisions you make and it does this very well. It doesn’t focus too much on bogging you down with tough puzzles or forcing you to remember hundreds of plot points, but instead has a brilliant and very polished world filled to the brim with imagination, creativity, strange and interesting characters and a new approach (at least for me) to the point and click genre and that is something that should be applauded. The dialogue that is present in the game is not voiced but is well written and again adds to the feeling of the world and its characters and having played through the game twice already this is a world I would quite happily visit again in the future.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.
Get Hands On With ‘Dead Synchronicity’ At AdventureX London This Weekend
AdventureX 2013 is nearly upon us and among the attendees at this years event are Fictiorama Studios with their new game, Dead Synchronicity.
Dead Synchronicity tells the story of the ‘Great Wave’ a chain of natural disasters that have changed the course of mankind and caused chaos and destruction to the inhabitants of the world. The army and government have flexed their muscles and taken authority over the survivors willing or not. Mysteriously they also seem to be the cause of an illness, of which the sufferers are called ‘Dissolveds’. This illness advances the sufferers cognitive skills far beyond normal levels, but ultimately leads to their gruesome death.
Is the army carrying out experiments on the people it claims to be protecting or is there something even more sinister behind the mysterious circumstances? You the player take control of Michael, a man who has lost all memory of his past, as he tries to discover just what led to the collapse of human civilization and the world he once knew.
Dead Synchronicity is available to play at this years AdventureX London held on 7th/8th Dec.
Rufus is one of those combustible characters that try as he might, can’t help but cause chaos at the best of times. This characterisation combined with Deponia‘s off-the-wall humour has seen Rufus in quite a few predicaments throughout his adventures. The most memorable of which involved him being strapped to a giant circular saw blade and catapulted through the air, but only after the player had solved a mouse trap style puzzle in order to launch the device. The reason I bring up a scene from a past game is simply for comparison. It’s these moments of picturesque hilarity that mould the Deponia games from being simply funny, to hilariously memorable. It’s also something that Goodbye Deponia, the third and final part of the trilogy is sadly lacking a lot of. That’s not to say that these moment aren’t in the game, they are, just not on the same scale.
The change in humour in Goodbye Deponia lends itself somewhat to this in my opinion. With an overall darker feel, jokes about euthanasia and periods don’t fit well with light hearted and comedical situations leaving less room for these to arise. There are still laugh out loud moments, but having played through the entire game I am struggling to remember them.
Thankfully Goodbye Deponia excels in places that it’s predecessors didn’t, namely the puzzle solving logic which has been kept to an illogical minimum this time around. There are still a couple of sticking points where the illogicality really stunted progression but overall the flow of the game and depth of the puzzles work a lot better than in the past two Deponia games. The best part of the game comes when Rufus clones two versions of himself, meaning three times the mayhem and mishap all controllable by the player at the same time. Switching from Rufus to Rufus feels very natural and there are even instances where they can help each other to solve puzzles by exchanging items.
Goodbye Deponia clocks in at around seven to nine hours in length and contains plenty of what fans of the series will be looking for. The beautifully hand drawn backgrounds are back, looking as intricate and interesting as ever. The charismatic characters are all there from Goal, to Rufus, to Toni and Bailiff Argus. The story writing and voice acting is for the most part as great as it has always been, providing the power behind the characters and their reasoning.
This brings me neatly onto the ending of the trilogy, which of course I’m not going to spoil for you in any way. What I will say though is that I was a little disappointed by how it was handled. It comes around rather quickly and without much of a warning as you enter into what I assumed was the last quarter of the game. It certainly didn’t happen how I imagined and after three games worth of leading up to this point I have to ask myself was it all really worth it? I may be overreacting, and I certainly commend Daedalic Entertainment for ending the way they did, as I’m sure they knew it wouldn’t stick well with fans. Were they trying to give us a life message, something to take away from the story and think about? Were they proving the point that they are unlike other developers and don’t pander to the every need and demand of their fans? Or was it simply a sloppy ending to an otherwise well written and delivered trilogy of games? The decision is yours.
Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC, Mac
Platform Reviewed – PC
It’s evident that change is afoot in Goodbye Deponia, the third and final game in a trilogy of hilarious point and click games by Daedalic Entertainment. Early on in the game we catch our first glimpse of the inside of the Argonon cruiser headed for Elysium. It’s people look relaxed and are enjoying the high life unaware of the fact that people still reside on the planet they are about to destroy. Rufus and his band of stragglers are not about to let that happen however, and even after all his mistakes Goal has come around to his way of thinking too.
From the first moment you are able to take control of Rufus mayhem ensues, not in a frustrating ‘detrimental to the game’ kinda way, but in a wholly expected and welcomed ‘Rufus is back’ kinda way. If you’ve played the previous parts of the story you’ll already know that despite his best efforts everything Rufus touches is ruined in one way or another and the same is evident in the early story and puzzles of Goodbye Deponia.
The game mechanics are much the same as you would expect from Daedalic’s past games and indeed the past Deponia games. Space bar highlights any interactive points on the screen where as the left and right mouse buttons allow you to examine, pick up and use items found on your travels. Considering that this is the final part of three games, I would have expected the puzzle solving to be as hard as ever. Instead during the first few moments you are almost on rails and have only one option to advance. This is soon sorted and the proper puzzle solving kicks off but while the intro is entertaining, it also seems a little weak as far as gameplay is concerned.
As the version I am playing is only a preview and not the final product, there are still issues with sound balancing and missing text/voice from conversations. These are things that I would fully expect to be ironed out in the final product, but could cause frustration if they are missed. Aside from the obvious flaws, Goodbye Deponia actually seems to run a lot faster on my ancient laptop than the previous two games did. Again this could be because of the version but if translated to the final product this would improve gameplay and cutscenes nicely.
Daedalic claim that Goodbye Deponia can be played as a stand alone, without knowledge of the past two games and while they certainly try I don’t believe that you would experience the game properly. Without having that previous knowledge of characters, running jokes and puzzle solving methods many items of information would go way over your head. There’s even a quick run down of the past two adventures, but this for me acted as a jog of the memory more than a serious explanation that would allow an uninformed me to continue with play unhindered.
With all that being said the general feel of Goodbye Deponia is one of high quality care and attention, both in puzzle solving and game mechanics. The world, its characters and intricately hand drawn backgrounds are all still present and there is nothing to say that this wont be as good as the past two games, only time will tell. When all is said and done it really will be sad to say goodbye to Deponia and to Rufus, but at the same time I look forward to the conclusion of many hours of play and a genuinely interesting world.
Goodbye Deponia will be released via Steam and other outlets on October 22nd.
Despite all the spam, copy-paste PR announcements and completely irrelevant information we receive in the Reticule’s inbox, every now and then something truly exciting will turn up. Tonight, just when I was considering turning in for the evening, a little gem landed on our doorstep in the form of The Inner World, an absolutely beautiful point and click adventure from Studio Fizbin
“Somehow I don’t enjoy mindless trial and error like I used to” announces Geron during what I now like to refer to as ‘The Cucumber Incident’, the one and only moment in Memoria where all reasoning and judgement are thrown out the window in place for random guess-work and pure luck. To say that there is only one such moment in a ten to twelve-hour game built around puzzle solving is a big credit especially for Daedalic Entertainment who, in my opinion have let such illogicality dog the progress of previous games. Indeed the puzzle solving in Memoria has to be the most enjoyable of any adventure game I’ve played to date.
This is in part to do with the difficulty of the puzzles and how this has been dealt with by the developers. The logic clicked really well with me and in my occasional moment or two of struggle there was always a helpful hinting system to hand, an aspect that has been honed to perfection for this release and allows you to pass by those potential moments of progressional frustration. It is also latterly to do with the genre and whilst I understand varying tastes, the context of the story surrounding the use of magic and being set in a mystical fantasy world filled with tales of conquest and heroism, was always going to firmly grab my attention. Interestingly the story itself is also part of a grand puzzle that you have to solve as its mysteries are slowly revealed to you.
Memoria tells the two intersecting stories of Geron and Sadja who whilst living in very different circumstances some five hundred years apart, have more in common than they first suspect. Geron, in a bid to free his girlfriend Nuri who has been transformed into a bird, has agreed to solve a riddle involving Sadja and her attempts to acquire the mask of Malakkar. This mask should have changed the course of a great war and placed Sadja in history books as a heroine for a nation. Instead she disappeared from all records and it’s up to Geron to discover what has happened. The intersecting stories deliver the adventure very well, each characters section releasing a little more information about the riddle, about the floating city of Drakonia, the mask of Malakkar, the great battle, the mysterious merchant Fahi and the demon that turns people into pillars of stone.
Geron’s story builds quite nicely from his first meeting with Fahi, but its Sadja’s grand tale of heroism that is most appealing. Ultimately her quest for the mask of Malakkar and her involvement in the great war are the focal point of not just her story but of Geron’s too, meaning that you don’t really explore much of Geron’s character throughout the game. Geron also tends to briefly mention events that happened in the previous game Chains of Satinav. While these lines of dialogue are not key to understanding this story, they can be a little confusing and to get the most out of Memoria it’s probably best that you have played it’s predecessor first.
Memoria is played in a chapter by chapter basis, consisting of eight chapters. Quite what the point in these chapters are is unclear as they seem to appear at unusual times during the game. Playing through the whole game without any chapters wouldn’t be detrimental but I can understand the feeling of progress they instill and ultimately they don’t harm the gameplay either.
So, this is a game about puzzles, let’s talk about that I hear you cry. Well, puzzle solving in this, the latest of Daedalic Entertainment’s increasingly long list of adventure games, is simplistic but satisfying and almost never (see ‘The Cucumber Incident’) illogical. Even if it takes you a few attempts to solve a certain puzzle, you will almost always agree that the solution is something you should have thought of rather than something you could have guessed through random trial and error. Different sets of abilities in the form of spells are provided for each of the main characters and so keep the puzzles changing all the time. As new spells are added, so too is another level of complexity and as you don’t use the same spells all the time you are always kept guessing as to the right path to proceed. Of all the abilities the ‘send vision’ spell is the most innovative and while at first this seems a bit vague the opportunities to use it are well presented. Memoria also makes use of mechanics common throughout other Daedalic games such as the looking-glass used to detect all the magic in a certain area, or the use of the space bar to show all the interactive points on-screen.
Memoria is so close to being that brilliant adventure game I yearn for that I really, really want to give it our highest score, but unfortunately it just doesn’t quite hit my lofty expectations for a couple of reasons. The major reason being the ending of the story, where for me the game stops being great and turns to merely average. I can’t mention too much without dropping some huge spoilers however the problem for me is not with the content of the ending but instead the way this ending is delivered. It seems almost like the focus of the whole plot is passed over in the matter of a couple of minutes. It’s not elaborated on too much, the major characters don’t really have much to say about it all, and to be honest it all feels a little rushed. As the second game in the world of The Dark Eye, Memoria can now be considered part of a series and it could be that Daedalic have another game planned to lead on from this. They might have more story to reveal and have purposely left some loose ends to lead into the next game, but in all honesty it feels like after such a brilliant middle sector, the ending has been squeezed of life.
This shouldn’t stop you from playing this game however as the many good points outweigh what could well just be my personal annoyance with the ending. The story is absorbing, exciting and mysterious. The characters are well animated, interesting and occasionally even funny. The visuals are stunning, with the beautifully hand drawn backdrops merging well with the computer animated characters that have more life than any drawn character could. The puzzles are intuitive, logical and occasionally very challenging and all in all, Memoria is a well polished, well delivered game with a decent length and an interesting story. I would go as far as saying this is Daedalic Entertainment’s best yet.