Review: Keepsake (PC)


Keepsake
Developer: Wicked Studios
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 3/31/2006

Every so often this happens. I’m talking with a publisher lining up games for our staff to review when I’ll notice one, ask about it and be told, “That came out six months ago.” Oops. Such is the case here with TAC’s Keepsake. I’d heard of it, but never heard of it coming out. They asked if I’d still review it if they sent it to me. I said sure, because you can never have enough content here at NaTE, right?

I generally love TAC games. Even some of their stinkers like Necronomicon have a place in my heart because as slow and plodding as it was, the story was great and very true to a Lovecraftian style tale. It would have made a better short story than a video game though. Generally though they have a great record with adventure games. The Dracula series, Still Life and Post Mortem. Games like that that have completely reinvigorated the adventure genre over the past 5 years. It’s the only developer I really pay attention to for PC games, as I’m not really a PC gamer. In the past three years the only things outside adventure games I’ve used the PC for are D&D Online and Neverwinter Nights.

While waiting for Keepsake to arrive, I read some other reviews of it and was pleased to see it was averaging a 70% on Gamerankings. It’s commonplace for US reviewers to give horrible scores to adventure games. It seems that like 2-D shooters and side scrolling beat-em-ups, the average US reviewer can’t wrap their aheads around the point n’ click concept. Which is odd as Europe still loves them. So I was rather looking forward to this game as it appeared to be a high quality

Let me say this once: I seriously contemplated eating my rabbit’s feces as an alternative to playing this game as it would be far more fun and enjoyable. I have learned that when it comes to adventure games to take any US reviewer’s opinion of this genre and go with the exact opposite. If they hate it, it means it has a good story and is highly original. If they like it, it’s because they are completely insane. Keepsake was one of the most horrible gaming experiences I’ve had in quite some time and is a contender for my worst game of the year. What was so bad about this game that I would repeatedly scream at the game to “hurry up” or “for the love of god, even Dragon Warrior VII didn’t drag on this long!”? Prepare to read what is less a review than an attempt at recovering from this nightmarish experience.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Keepsake revolves around a girl named Lydia who is about to start her first day at Magic Academy. When she arrives at the academy however, it is completely deserted except for an Italian stereotype that would make Mario cry foul and a pathological lying wolf. Your mission is to figure out what happened to the staff and students of the academy, especially your best friend Celeste and her father.

This plot synopsis had great potential. It’s mystery solving. I like mysteries. However, the execution of the game was so horrible that the only mystery was how I managed to play it through until the very end. The dialogue is poorly written, and appears written for small children. Through a combination of bad dialogue and poor voice acting, the game appears to have given Celeste an Electra complex towards her father. Incestu-licious! The ending of the game is utterly dull and flat. The ending is supposed to be melancholy at best, but because you end up loathing the characters by the end of the game, you’re just glad it’s done instead of having any real emotional connection with them.

Honestly people, this was Shining Force Neo bad in terms of story. So much potential and the core ideas still remain an excellent theme for a game to revolve around, but the end result was a combination of dreck and pabulum best suited for the mentally ill or slightly retarded. It’s really hard for a game to annoy me simply with the plot, but man, o’ man, did Keepsake succeed in spades.

Story Rating: 3/10

2. Graphics

Like most modern adventure games, Keepsake has lush backgrounds and vivid scenery designs. The problem is that 70-75% of the game consists of walking and so you get to see everything far more than you would ever want to. Still, it’s a pretty walk. I really enjoyed the forest areas and the looking down at the valley from the top of the school. Nice shots in all.

The problem is the character designs are awful. They look like something from a Nintendo 64 game and the character models distinctly clash with background. Every character has giant frog eyes and jowls. It’s like what if humanity evolved from a cross breeding of pig and amphibian. The animal models are slightly better, but not much. The CGI scenes actually highlight how bad the human and animal designs are, while the regular game makes them somewhat more passable.

There’s a lot of slowdown in the game too. Mainly when your characters are going from one room to another. The visuals will freeze for a bit while walking noises continue. This becomes annoying quite quickly. Eventually the graphics catch up with the sound, but as three-fourths of the game is just walking, you’ll be counting the seconds until you can remove this horrid game from your hard drive.

Graphics 6/10

3. Sound

Awful, awful voice acting. Lydia is annoying and pretty emotionless except for the occasional whining. Zak is literally one of the most unlikable playable characters in the history of gaming. Oh, how I longed to see him impaled on something or spontaneously combusting for no reason. This is mainly because of the voice actor. Let’s also not forget the “It’s-a me!” salesman you encounter during the first third of the game or Celeste’s voice actress who makes your main character’s best friend sound as if she wants to be playing her father’s skin flute. Truly truly bad here folks.

The background music is actually quite nice. The problem is that you rarely pay attention to it because of all the voice acting. It’s often times rather soothing and calming, which is great considering without it you’d probably be foaming at the mouth, plotting the deaths of all involved with this claptrap.

This is one of the worst voice acted games I’ve played in a long time, and definitely the worst DC voiced game I’ve ever played. Music saves the score a little, but not enough.

Sound Rating: 4/10

4. Control and Gameplay

It’s almost impossible to f*ck up an adventure game. The controls are point and click. You use your mouse and nothing more. This is a genre that has changed little, if any, in nearly three decades. So of course leave it to Keepsake to f*ck it all up.

Now the general controls are fine. You still use your mouth for everything. Click to move. Click to talk. Click to interact with objects. But due to some really bad gameplay designs, the game’s length is artificially lengthened past the patience of even RPG gamers, let alone the usual people who play Adventure Games.

What do I mean by this? The average adventure game is ten hours or less. Usually about 5. Keepsake is between 20 and 30 hours long. The actual time you will be playing is only 6-7 hours. So what are you doing for the rest of that time?

1) Walking. Your characters walk everywhere. Even at running speed you are walking amazingly slowly. As well, when you finish one task or puzzle it inevitably turns out the next one is as far from your current point as possible. Add in the slow loading and slow walking speeds, and that is a lot of passive gaming.

2) Watching your characters talk. Now this is only a small problem if you actually want to hear every bit of dialogue spoken. There are large pauses between each character speaking and they tend to talk very slowly. It’s an even bigger annoyance if you try to fast forward through the talking. In most games this is pretty easy to do. Here however when you fast forward through the dialogue the characters keep acting as if they are talking and the new dialogue doesn’t come up until it would have had you let it play out. In other words the fast forward function does not function and is little better than a mute button. Again, more passive gaming. And with the shit voice acting you have to deal with here, it’s going to be a very long gaming experience.

3) Cut scenes. You can’t fast forward through them. This is especially annoying in the last half of the game where you are teleporting everywhere. Every time you teleport, you get a teleport cut scenes. And you will teleport roughly 100 times in this part of the game. It will drive you mad.

It’s as if they purposely designed Keepsake to test a gamer’s patience. It’s long, convoluted and you spend very little of the game actually PLAYING it. Ad din the slowdown and load times and my god, I honestly can not fathom how ANYONE enjoyed playing this.

The controls are solid, like all Adventure games, but the gameplay ruins any shred of enjoyment anyone can gleam from this crapfest. Stay far away. Far far away. Preferably in another time zone or hemisphere.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 3/10

5. Replayability

HA! HA HA HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Adventure games are generally a once off playthrough in the first place due to their linear nature and rigid playing style. Now take a game from this genre that is two to three times longer than the rest of them and make it annoying in every way you can possible conceive of. That’s Keepsake. I will be impressed and amazed if you make it through ONE sitting with this game. I will call for a god damned exorcist if you try and play it a second time. This is a game even the developer’s parents couldn’t say something nice about.

Replayability Rating: 1/10

6. Balance

Like all adventure games, the puzzles in keepsake run the gambit from “so easy a toddler could do them” to “what the f*ck am I supposed to do here?” However, Keepsake has introduced a hint system. You can get three hints on what you are supposed to do with the puzzles given to you. Most of the time, you have to click on the first hint simply because there appears to be neither rhyme nor reason to the puzzles and you just want to know what the bloody objective is.

As well, you can completely bypass the puzzles and have the game solve them for you. I think this is rather lame, but you know, at least that means you can get the actual PLAYING out of the way and go on to more horrible exposition and WALKING. YAY!

You’ll either get the puzzles or you need a bit of help. It all depends on how your brain works and if you catch on right away or not. Factor in the fact you can skip all the puzzles if you feel like it, and the difficulty is right out the window. It’s a game with built in cheat codes. Lame. It kills any semblance of challenge, and worse, you’ll be sorely tempted to just pass through all the puzzles simply to get the f*cking experience over with.

Balance Rating. 4/10

7. Originality

Check the thermometer outside Tarturus folks. I’m about to say something nice about this game.

The ideas behind Keepsake are quite nice. Bonds of friendship, the importance of a parent to a child after the other parent has died, work vs. family, and the importance of responsibility and accountability in one’s everyday actions. These are the themes of keepsake and I wish more games would touch on them. Alas, This game is so awful most of the meaning is lost in the attempts and instead you get full of characters you all wish would reach a grisly demise. Too bad it’s an E rated game.

Great concepts, poor everything else. I just hope the next game that tries to deal with these themes does a better job. A much better job.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

It is my belief that Crystal Meth is less harmful to you than playing this game. It’s that bad on your mind and I can’t begin to imagine what it does to your body as it certainly gets the bile churning. I honestly kept begging the game to end or die or cease to exist. But then there would be hours more of walking around then walking back to where I was in the first place. The complete collection ofTOMB RAIDER and RESIDENT EVIL games have less backtracking then this piece of shit.

You can’t get into this game. There’s nothing to enjoy. It is painful in every way a video game can be and it is definitely a candidate for worst game of the year for me. Man, I thought Crime Stories was bad. But this? WHOOOO. Stinker.

Addictiveness Rating: 1/10

9. Appeal Factor

I honestly can’t figure out who would enjoy this game. Small children who like bad stories and condescending plots. The almost non-existent female gamer who also enjoys Barbie Horse Adventures?. This is like beyond Good and Evil all over again where reviewers say “yay,” and damn near every gamer says “OMGWTF is this crap?” Still, it has to have an audience as it wouldn’t be getting 7’s from other reviewers. God knows I never want to have to be in a room with those reviewers though. I’d be serving a lengthy jail sentence afterwards. Sure it would be worse it and a boon to all humanity, but I’m too cut for prison.

Appeal factor: 3/10

10. Miscellaneous

There are no extra. No nifty aspects of the game to talk about. Playing Keepsake was painful. Nightmare of Druaga painful. Shining Tears painful. Sodomy from a mummy painful. I can think of nothing nice to say about this game other than I really like Dreamcatcher as a company and I’m sure Wildlife Zoo will be a much more enjoyable game. As will Evidence. And well, pretty much any other game they publisher. Gods, it would HAVE TO BE. Bad game. My god, I can’t wait to “remove program” as soon as I finish this remove. My computer will be clean once more!

Miscellaneous Rating: 1/10

The Scores
Story: 3/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 4/10
Control & Gameplay: 3/10
Replayability: 1/10
Balance: 4/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 1/10
Appeal Factor: 3/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10
Total Score 31/100
Final Score:3 (BAD)

Short Attention Span Summary
Do not buy this game! What more can I say? It’s awful! Please heed my warnings even if you never had before. This is a stinker through and through. There are so many better Adventure games released this year. May I recommend Barrow Hill instead? Just avoid this at all costs. For both our sanity’s sake.