Adventure Gaming – Unsolved Crimes and Syberia DS

September 4, 2009 · Posted in Video Games · Comment 

The odyssey with point and clicky adventure games continues. There was a short detour to crime investigation gameplay with Unsolved Crimes, which was a nice piece of distraction for a couple of weeks worth of lunch hours. The idea is that you are a murder detective in the 70’s, you go and inspect murder scenes and piece together the case. The murder scenes are done nicely in 3D, you can wander around, peek under beds and so on. A bit clunky, but overall rather neat. The actual figuring out is done with questionnaires, which chart your understanding of the case. At times you got a multiple choice question, where the answer was usually pretty self evident and at times you had to answer either with a piece of evidence, a statement from a suspect or an element of the crime scene. Most of these were also pretty easy to figure out.


The game had potential for quite a lot, but somehow it ended up being a rather soulless click through. First of all you couldn’t interview the suspects and their statements just appeared in their profiles.  Because of this the suspects didn’t really have that much personality, and neither unfortunately did the other characters you met during the game. Secondly, the cases were a bit too straightforward. Maybe I’m spoiled by Ace Attorney -games, because I kept waiting for a surprising twist at least on some point. There was no sense of drama at all, not even in the very loose story arc, that felt rather tacked on. The worst problem with Unsolved Crimes is that the game was too easy, since at times it practically gave away the puzzles. Whenever something felt like it wasn’t completely self evident, the last line of dialog was invariably on the lines of “Hmm, I guess WE’D BETTER LOOK AT THAT TABLE” and poof went the sense of figuring things out.

Nevertheless, Unsolved Crimes is an ok game for killing time and I’d consider it worth the money, if you set your expectations right.

Syberia DS, on the other hand…


When I noticed that Syberia, which I had missed the first time around, was available for DS, I didn’t even check the reviews but just blindly ordered it. Today I played it for the first time and boy, talk about ambivalent feelings…

Playing Syberia DS felt like eating a really, really good cake using a bowling pin for a spoon. For the first time ever the atmosphere of the game was so strong that the restaurant just vanished from around me. After a while I also had the life time first for wanting to throw my DS at a wall. I’ve never ever played a DS game where the UI and gameplay has sucked this horribly.

You have no idea where the hotpoints or the exits are. You can in theory hunt them with a very clumsy “look”-tool, but it doesn’t react to all of them, so you’ll just have to click and walk around the screen and hope you’ll get lucky with the pixel hunt. The character moves reeeeally slowly and you guessed it – you can’t just double click an exit to go somewhere, but you’ll have to watch Kate mosey over screen after screen. You don’t get any kind of warning when someone gives you an item, you’ll just have to realise to check your inventory. The game is controlled completely with touch screen and there are a couple of gesture based things, like pulling down a lever. If you do it 12 times, you might succeed in it.

If you are a person like me who reads reviews and thinks “ok well, they complain about these things, but they don’t really sound that bad and I’m not generally bothered by a bit of clumsiness” take note –  this time the warnings are worth obeying. The Metacritic score of 52 is deserved and if I was reviewing this professionally, I’d give this 4 on a scale of 4-10, with a note that the reason for the score is the totally fucked up user interface, which makes the game borderline unplayable.

Avoid Syberia DS at any cost. Buy it on PC.


How to Irritate an Adventure Game Fan – Case: Secret Files: Tunguska

August 11, 2009 · Posted in Gaming · Comment 

For the last couple of years one of my top choices of entertainment for my lunch hours have been point and click adventures for DS. My stash was running low and recently I asked for recommendations, but after receiving zero (0) hints I just picked up a batch of games pretty much at random, after a peek at their reviews. Now I’ve finished the first of that batch, Secret Files: Tunguska.

The first four fifts of the game was pretty enjoyable, but the last fifth and the ending left me feeling god damn violated. Why? Well, this has to do with a few pet peeves I have with adventure games in general nowadays (spoilers ahead):

1) If you have to make the puzzles ridiculously convoluted, at least give the player a clear goal why he should do all that illogical shit. If you really, positively HAVE to make a puzzle where the character has to thaw a hole in the ice using some salt (which is from a freight elevator that was brought down with a wad of linen soaked in whale oil) and then use a zippo as a bait for a fishing pole, so you can catch a fish and give it to the penguin and get the alien artifact it’s hatching, give the player some goddamn clear goal why he has to jump through all these hoops (oh, the alien artifact can somehow be used to repair the heating and water system of the base if you happen to try it – how utterly logical!). Better yet, make puzzles that make some goddamn sense and fit the storyline. Surreal and convoluted shit: ok for Sam & Max and Wallace & Gromit, not so much for a game with a halfway serious plotline.

2) Rein in the humor. Are you making a comedy? No? A conspiracy thriller, you say? Then can the fucking bad wit on every goddamn line of internal dialogue the character has. Especially can the fucking toilet humour in game where the plot is trying to be even a bit dark and atmospheric.

3) Enough with the tacked on romances. It’s surprising, but there isn’t an actual law that says the sassy female protagonist (with a ponytail) has to fall in love with the slightly nerdy but outgoing male character, out of the blue.

For anyone agrees with the previous three points, Secret Files: Tunguska is a bit of a painful experience. It starts pretty all right, though, and most of the truly horrendous crap is in the end of the game. Tunguska has the most convoluted and illogical puzzles I’ve ever seen in an adventure game, which is saying a lot.

For the most part there is a kind of a weird point to what you are doing. Maybe I’m weird, but if I’m facing a problem where I’ll have to eavesdrop on someone, taping a cell phone on to his cat feels like an option that’s worth trying. The further the plot advances, the less clear the goals seem to get, until at the Antarctic base everything goes out of the window. At that point I gave up on even trying to figure out what to do and just started clicking every item on every hot spot, until something happened. Yay. Fucking fun.

This takes us to the humor. The attempted wit of the main characters’ dialogues was hit and miss (mostly a pretty harmless miss) but the ending of the game was a real farce. I mean, what the hell – did the developers fall into the gaping plot holes, hit their head and then figure out that a fucking blooper reel and embarassingly bad “what happened to the characters next” comedy feature would be a GREAT FUCKING WAY to end a conspiracy thriller. Very little of the game’s atmosphere survived the idiotic puzzles of the Antarctic and the ending really shat on their remains. It was like Doom – The Movie bad.

Then, the forced romance. Ho hum. Just ho hum.

I wouldn’t be this ranty unless the game had been halfway good for the most part. Although the genre is again on the rise, there still aren’t that many point and click adventures out there, especially on DS. Seeing the few we have get fucked up with really basic level game design mistakes really pisses me off.

In the storytelling side, the thing that irritates me the most is the “witty” humour. The adventures games seem to suffer from the same problem as scifi TV series: you have to have humor, or at least certain light heartedness in all of them. That’s why Battlestar Galactica was such a refreshing breath of fresh air in the genre: no humor and writing that’s feels like it’s aimed for adults. Pretty much the same vibe I got from the first Still Life and The Moment of Silence.

I have Still Life 2 on the laptop waiting for a suitably rainy cabin visit and right now I’m going through Unsolved Crimes on DS. I wonder if I should check out Secret Files 2?

For example, one early dilemma involves reading an inscription on the bottom of a child’s kart. To do this, you must attach a roller skate to the bottom of the kart (it’s missing one of its wheel, you see), roll it over a skylight in the floor, clean said portal with a makeshift mop you’ve created out of several completely unrelated odds-and-ends and then view the text from the deck below.

During this entire jaunt you have to conveniently ignore the fact that common sense would suggest it would be a damn sight easier to merely flip the kart over and read the inscription.
Pocket Gamer


PS. An another local view on the game, this time on Wii. Some of the same gripes, but a rather more positive outlook on the game.