As has been my practice for the last few years, I’ve set my RSS feed to truncate entries so that I can post reviews without spoilerage. Within an entry, there is a short, spoilerless discussion (though the comp purists may want to avoid reading even that before playing for themselves); then spoiler space; then a more detailed discussion of what I thought did and didn’t work in the game.
I’m also pursuing an approach I came up with last year: I’m playing and reviewing games that have listed beta-testers, and skipping those that don’t. Last year that turned out to be a pretty fool-proof indicator of which games were going to end up scoring 4 or less on my personal scale. I’m hoping this will mean I have more time to devote to the remaining games, which in turn will (I hope) be of higher quality, and you, dear reader, will have fewer rants inflicted on you.
Now up: Resonance.
There are elements here for an entertaining, fast-paced genre ride: it’s a bit noirish, a bit science-fictiony, and a bit corporate espionage thrilleresque.
Alas, the implementation is not quite up to the burden of the fast-paced and twisty story it wants to tell. There are a lot of spots where NPCs give heavy-handed hints, or where the player’s options are seriously railroaded in order to get the desired outcome. The whole beginning of the game is essentially an infodump where another character tells you things your character would already know if it weren’t for a convenient alcoholic confusion.
The writing mechanics don’t always work either: I ran into some poor choices of words here and there, various room descriptions that repeat mentions of objects, and failure to draw attention to things that one would immediately notice in a room in real life. The dialogue is melodramatic.
Overall, I thought this had some positive points, but I had a very hard time taking the story seriously. When we got to the point where it became suddenly and gratuitously difficult*, I decided to go to the walkthrough. The rest of the game was consistent with the beginning — not terrible, certainly, but not especially believable even on its own terms.
* I refer to the riddles asked by the police officer. I’m not a fan of riddles in IF in general, because they require knowledge not accessible within the game, are difficult to hint well, and rarely act as an effective gating mechanism (because being able to solve them usually doesn’t depend on the player having seen previous locations or learned things about the game world).
Resonance does at least offer a hint system that will help through these, but it all just felt so contrived: the protagonist’s brother has been killed before his eyes, his wife is being held and perhaps tortured at Psychodyne, and yet somehow he has the patience and the inclination to play riddle games with a police officer? Emotionally this all felt too false to me.