Wadjet Eye has managed to associate itself with some of the best modern adventure games with titles like The Shiva and Gemini Rue. They work within conventions of the genre- even paying homage to it with their gorgeous pixel art- while continuing to create and publish engaging tales. It was for these reasons that I hankering to try the newest game they’ve chosen to publish from developer xii games: Resonance.
Resonance starts with a bang- a series of them, to be precise. Explosions have rocked the world of the future- the cause of which are unbeknownst to the news reporters whose stories flash across the opening screens. The story then flashes back sixty hours earlier, where a set of four clocks will introduce players to the four protagonists of the game. A scientist whose cluttered apartment reflects an obsession with his work. A hard-boiled detective who is plucked right of a Dashiell Hammett story. A young doctor who is haunted by her past. Lastly, an investigative reporter who thinks being called a ‘blogger’ is a slap to the face. The prelude gives players a sense of each character’s personality with tiny, solitary vignettes.
The vignettes also serve to explain why the four protagonists now need each other’s help and are bound together for the rest of the adventure. Like any good adventure game with multiple characters, the fab four here each have their specific advantages. The cop is physically strong and can roam the police station with ease. The doctor has the authority to move about the hospital. And the journalist has contacts that only trust him.
While having access to multiple characters at once is not anything new (look back at Maniac Mansion), it’s easily one of the neatest mechanics that the genre has. While the effects of having multiple, playable characters in Resonance are as engaging and enjoyable as any other game that uses this method, the handling here is a bit worse. For instance, item management is a chore with each character having their own inventory. I hate playing backseat designer, but I don’t understand why there wasn’t a common one that allowed characters to walk up to each other and ask for the items if they were in the same scene, or say something along the lines of “I need to talk to ____ to get that” if they were separated.
This same frustration is present in getting characters to move as a group. There may have been an easier way to accomplish the task and I just missed it, but as it stands, I had to constantly invite other characters to follow me lest they get left behind. Some more backseat commentary as I suggest that intelligent control grouping in the vein of RTS games would have worked great. While these low-level mechanical problems are constant and bothersome, Resonance also implements some innovative ideas that compelled me to work through the bog of routine.
The use of memory is easily one of the most compelling integrations of mechanics and narrative that I’ve experienced in a long time. As the game progresses, each character gains long-term memories that act like items in an inventory drop-down menu. The difference is that these memories can be dragged into conversations and the pertinent information gained from the events surrounding the memory will be rehashed for the player. Short term memories are collected by players. Most any item that has a hot-spot on it can be dragged into a short-term inventory that lasts for the length of the scene a character is in. The STMs allow for different routes in puzzle solutions and commentary from the characters not under player control. This sometimes resulted in frivolous dialogue as I was prone to try and talk to everyone about all the details of a scene, but that was a problem I joyfully caused myself as the solutions for overcoming obstacles were telegraphed in exactly the right way.
Speaking of obstacles, Resonance’s puzzles consist of a great mix. While there are certainly the garden type variety of inventory solutions, there’s a refreshing amount of different puzzle types. There’s some information-gathering ones where players have to read through e-mails and manage logins. Another puzzle has players deliberately moving pieces around in a satisfyingly physical way. While there was a bit more backtracking than I would prefer, the enigmas had just the right amount of difficulty.
Surprisingly, I’ve written a lot about mechanics so far without saying much about the story- a surprising reversal for the game’s genre. While the systems are novel enough to be worth adventure gamers’ time, the story is what will make the title worth sticking to. Tonally, the game is a rather earnest mystery with sci-fi elements. A smattering of jokes and cracks keep the story from taking itself too seriously. The plotting raises the stakes appropriately and keeps interest in the story up.
The character development hits a high note early with the wonderfully well-done vignettes, but doesn’t quite ever match up again. A few poignant moments litter the game and give us a chance to see what the motivations and personalities of each protagonist are, but the big cast means that each character only gets a few of those. The supporting cast often serves as comic relief and does a great job of doing so; the eccentric puzzle/safe designer was a particular favorite of mine. A few loose threads don’t get tied up, but overall, I enjoyed the experience greatly.
Like PC gaming, the adventure genre was labeled deceased for quite a long time. While the latter no longer holds the same popularity it did in the early 90’s, games like Resonance prove that the genre can not only continue to survive, but can innovated upon as well. While the game has a few hiccups, the fantastic art, the varied puzzles, and compelling narrative all make Resonance easily one of the best adventure games of the year.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Memory mechanic is quite neat
+ Art is great
+ Puzzle variety
- Party management is tedious
- Item management as well
- Multiple main characters means not enough time with any one
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Resonance was developed by xii games and published by Wadjet Eye Games and is available from either Steam or the publisher’s website for $9.99. A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.