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Resonance

"For those who grew up with old-school Sierra graphic adventures, Resonance will remind you of why you enjoyed this genre in the first place. "

Although video games try to outdo each other in terms of production values, the retro trend that has been going on for years continues to stay strong. Nowhere is this more evident than in the graphic adventure genre. Once thought dead, this stalwart genre from the 1980s and 1990s is enjoying a newfound prolificacy through developers like Daedalic and Wadjet Eye, to name a couple. Resonance is the latest from Wadjet Eye and it looks like those pixilated, but stylish, Sierra adventures from yesteryear but has a storyline befitting modern sensibilities.

The average kid would probably look at Resonance and think, "Man, that's old!" but I cannot imagine the game looking any other way. The pixilated, but realistic, graphics remind me of something like Gabriel Knight or any other good Sierra adventure. One of the first scenes in the game recreates a nightmare from one of the protagonist's childhood, and it looks as tense and immersive as any modern survival horror game. The immersive tension is built purely on the strength of atmosphere rather than jaw-dropping production values. Maybe it's the nostalgia talking, but flashy polygon graphics just wouldn't look right here. Perhaps smoother hand drawn sprites and backgrounds like in Daedalic's The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav would work, but the charm in Resonance is in the stylish lo-res graphics characteristic of other Wadjet Eye games such as Gemini Rue. To be honest, writing this review is the only reason I even bothered to pay attention to the graphics, because the story and gameplay are good enough that the game doesn't need to look like Final Fantasy XIII. That being said, an easier way to increase the resolution (say, using the in-game menu) would be nice, since the available Game Settings EXE file proved disagreeable on multiple computers.

The visuals may look anachronistic, but the story is a taut conspiracy thriller with modern sensibilities. It starts out with Ed, a young physicist who receives an urgent early-morning phone call on his day off. It appears his supervisor is about to do something rash, and logical Ed can't let that happen. Across town, Anna, a young doctor at the city hospital, is rattled awake by a horrifying recurring nightmare. Is it just a dream or something else entirely? Meanwhile, veteran police detective Bennett and his partner are on a stakeout. Despite his straight-laced partner's protests, Bennett uses risky and unorthodox means to get to the bottom of his case. Just as Bennett seems to be onto something, a sudden blackout occurs. Although it doesn't last long, the city is in chaos and Bennett is quickly dispatched elsewhere. Cut now to an undercover reporter, named Ray, posing as a maintenance man to examine the hospital's mainframe due to the blackout. Thanks to his hacking skills, he finds himself on the verge of a story that seems right out of a conspiracy theory novel or film.

The sudden death of a famed physicist somehow brings these seemingly disparate individuals together and they have 24 hours to find and unlock the earth-shattering new technology he's discovered before it ends up in the wrong hands. The four don't trust each other at all, but they have to form an uneasy alliance as they've all descended down the same rabbit hole. The story takes quite a few twists and turns before culminating into one of two endings, depending on some of the player's choices. I would like to say more about the storyline, but doing so would reveal spoilers. Rest assured, the plot, dialogue, and characters remain engaging throughout the game's 8-10 hour duration. This game may not be suitable for the younger set, as there is a bit of harsh language and bloody violence in it, but I would say it's PG-13 at worst.

Progress in the game requires switching between the four divergent protagonists whose stories intertwine almost by fate. Sometimes, you'll be at a dead end that can only be resolved by switching to another character. Each character brings a unique set of skills and advantages to the table, so judicious use of all four to solve the logic puzzles throughout the case is key. Some puzzles have multiple solutions and there are even a few optional puzzles throughout the game. The puzzles themselves are challenging and require the kind of lateral thinking any good adventure does, but they make contextual sense and are never obtuse. There is no pixel hunting or random "object mashing" in Resonance, which will please genre fans. Another nicety is that though there are a few occasions when one wrong move can kill a character, the game rewinds a little bit if that happens, giving players a do-over.

One interesting aspect is that not only are objects collected and manipulated, but so is information. Some hot spots can be dragged into the "STM" (Short Term Memory) section of the menu for use as conversation pieces to work your way out of situations. Bear in mind, though, that space is limited in a character's short-term memory bank, so think about what hot-spots are most relevant to the situation at hand because there are plenty of red herrings.

The interface is intuitive enough and tutorial hint boxes occasionally pop up should players so desire. However, the interface itself feels a bit sluggish in response to commands. Sometimes the pointing, clicking, dragging, and dropping aren't as smooth as they could be. The interface gets the job done, but it felt like I was playing an "old" game.

The atmospheric music also gets the job done, but there's really nothing exceptional or memorable in the soundtrack. The music is merely there, and there aren't too many tracks to speak of. On the other hand, the voice acting during key scenes is quite good, and players will recognize some familiar voices. For example, the actor for Detective Bennett was the narrator in Bastion. Every actor portrays his or her role in a believable fashion.

If you can look past the so-so music, retro visuals and somewhat sluggish interface, Resonance is a good graphic adventure. Its story is well paced and kept me interested from beginning to end. The logic puzzles are challenging without being obtuse. The voice acting is above average. For those who grew up with old-school Sierra graphic adventures, Resonance will remind you of why you enjoyed this genre in the first place.


© 2012 Wadjet Eye Games, XII Games. All rights reserved.




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