Review: Evidence: The Last Ritual (PC)

Evidence: The Last Ritual
Developer: Lexis Numerique
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 10/17/06

Letâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s get one thing straight people before we start this review. Adventure games that are meant to be played with a straight face really arenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t my cup of tea. The Monkey Island games, Sam and Max, and more recently Phoenix Wright are great games, but I could never really get into something like Myst or any of the other headier adventure games. It seems rather odd that I end up with perhaps the sequel to arguably the most complex and nerve bending adventure game of all time Missing: Since January. Evidence: The Last Ritual is a mind boggling and freakish adventure game. I turned on all the lights and put on some comforting music and plunged into this wonderfully terrible (I use the word lovingly) game.

1. Story

Evidence: The Last Ritual takes place a few years after the original game ended. The serial killer from the original known only as â┚¬Å”The Phoenixâ┚¬Â has returned to torment the police with another series of murders and puzzles. Since the police are baffled by this, they proceed to send out CDs to everyone who could be of use in solving this mystery (especially since the first gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s protagonist Jack Lorski has been killed by The Phoenix). Youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll be aided in your quest to solve The Phoenixâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s riddles by Kristin Lark, an investigator interested in the occult (through your e-mail of course).

Describing the story of Evidence is a bit difficult simply because itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s such a personalized experience. Furthermore, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the type of thing where giving much more then I already have would damage the experience for the player. This is the type of game where story develops over days, weeks, and months, not hours. Evidence is one of the few games that blends reality so perfectly with the gaming world.

If there is a flaw to Evidence itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s that some of the acting in a few of the various live action segments in the game are lacking. They arenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t unwatchable by any means, but theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re straight to video quality at best. Furthermore, the story is rather difficult to grasp at times making a bit difficult to be as engrossing as it could be. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a tough trade off since the denseness of this game is its greatest strength and weakness. Regardless, the story is good despite these flaws.

Score: 7 out of 10

2. Graphics

Evidence is a great looking game in a creepy sort of way. While not the traditional good looking game, the game has a distinct look that is important in establishing the mood. Evidence is nerve bending in its oddity. Furthermore, the clues built into each puzzle fit in perfectly without looking â┚¬Å”offâ┚¬Â.

Evidence falters a bit at times when it tries to go too over the top with some of the video sequences mixed into the game. When the game stays strictly video itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s fine and when it stays just with animated sequences Evidence shines. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s just that when the two are blended, the video feels very out of place.

Overall, the game looks fantastic. Beyond a few minor animation problems, Evidence: The Last Ritual is a brilliantly executed game in the graphics department. Evidence has one of the strongest moods weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve seen in years in a game. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s not the type of thing youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d consider next generation in terms of its graphics, but it is still very impressive.

Score: 8 out of 10

3. Sound

Sound plays an important part in Evidence. Gameplay is fundamentally altered by sound simply because more then a few of the clues in the game that are revealed only through sound. Obviously itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s unfair to split the two apart in that regard. The music in the game is relatively laid back. With such an in your face presentation in the look of the game, the mellower soundtrack really makes the game wonderfully subdued. The sound is not as impressive as the other aspects of the game, but it still gets the job done.

Score: 7 out of 10

4.Control and Gameplay

Evidence: The Last Ritual goes far beyond the simple point and click adventures of the early 90s. Evidence: The Last Ritual tries to integrate gameplay into and throughout the whole of the internet. Evidence composed of a series of challenges that scan all sorts of human knowledge. Some of the puzzles are relatively simple (count the number of blinks, 1 = A, 2 = B, etc) while others require you to search names of artists, translate, pull up street maps, and so much more. Typically the game is played like this. The Phoenix gives you a complex puzzle with an answer at the bottom. In each scene, he gives you clues. Usually itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a word puzzle, but there are various ciphers, number codes, and all sorts of other madness to try and decode.

Perhaps the greatest strength of Evidence: The Last Ritual comes in the community. This is simply the driving force behind the game. Beyond the fake e-mails, the community of Evidence is exceptionally supporting and key to figuring out how to make your way through the game (at least until someone writes a comprehensive FAQ). Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a wonderful community that really makes the collective suffering of everyone apparent.

The biggest problem with this game is how often youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re pulling up a web browser with the game running. Unless youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re running a relatively fast computer, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll experience some slowdown pulling up two or three web browser windows with your game running. While the idea is great, people who like to run their PC games with nothing running in the background will be annoyed by their system slowing.

Evidence: The Last Ritual has excellent controls and game play beyond the slow down issues. The only other painful part about Evidence is how hard it is. Evidence has excellent, almost perfect, gameplay.

Score: 8 out of 10

5. Replay Value

Wow thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a ton to go through here. The question becomes what you consider replay value. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll take you quite some time to solve all of the puzzles and challenges left to you by The Phoenix measured in weeks, not days (unless this game just clicks for you and you figure out everything immediately). Then again, once you figure out the puzzles thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s nothing to do afterwards. Thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a ton of front end play but it suffers like most adventure games do from there being very little to do on the back end.

Score: 5 out of 10

6. Balance

The first four or five puzzles are relatively simple. Theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll need a sheet of paper for you to right down this or that, but the first puzzles will take about an hour to get through. After thatâ┚¬Â¦. wellâ┚¬Â¦ the game is absolutely absurd. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s such a huge jump in challenge that many gamers will be turned off by it. Hardcore Adventure gamers will love this though. The huge jump in difficulty stays constant though after that jump. Evidence: The Last Ritual stays hard once you reach the harder parts. The jump canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be ignored as that causes a huge unbalancing of the game, but afterwards the game is consistently mind-bending.

Score: 5 out of 10

7. Originality

The fact that we see so few Adventure games these days that take themselves so seriously makes this one of the more original games of the year. Evidence suffers a bit since A) Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a sequel and B) It draws a lot from Se7en and Saw in establishing its vibe. Still, this is one of the most original games of the year.

Score: 8 out of 10

8. Addictiveness

Evidence: The Last Ritual is the type of game youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll either obsess over or toss aside in disgust after a few challenges. There is a substantial feeling of accomplishment once you crack a puzzle or two that will keep several gamers coming back, but this is the type of game where youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll put in a lot of effort trying to piece together something with little result. The clues sent to you through your e-mail help draw you back in as they serve as nice reminders telling you itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s been a while since youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve played.

In short, Evidence can really draw you in if it catches you in the right mood. Beating one of the complex puzzles in the game is one of the greatest highs Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve ever gotten from a video game. On the other hand, it takes a tremendous amount of work to get to that sense of accomplishment. Evidence is like an absurdly difficult crossword puzzle book. Every so often, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll toss it aside in disgust, but if you make it through a few of the more difficult puzzles, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll always end up coming back.

Score: 7 out of 10

9. Appeal Factor

First off, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s an adventure game. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a sequel to an adventure game that you really should have played to fill in some of the major gaps of the story. It is also exceptionally hard. So essentially, this game will only appeal to the most hardcore of hardcore adventure gamers. Unfortunately for the Adventure Company, thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a rather limited audience. It might, might draw in the CSI crowd, but that is a big â┚¬Å”mightâ┚¬Â.

Score: 3 out of 10

10. Miscellaneous

Like I said early, Evidence: The Last Ritual is not my type of game. Still the unbelievable tension created by this game is haunting. It is one of the few video games that I have ever felt uneasy playing simply because of the visuals and the mood it sets. Unlike a survival horror though, Evidence: The Last Ritual never relinquishes that feeling. There is no downtime so to speak. It is simply a frightening and bizarre game that stays with you long after youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve shut your computer down. As much as I like this, quite a few people wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t. Evidence succeeds in being just too unnerving for the average gamer. They wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t like it, and I can completely understand why.

Score: 8 out of 10

The Scores
Story: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Control/Gameplay: 8/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 8/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 3/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
Total Score: 66/100
Final Score: 6.5

Short Attention Span Summary
Evidence: The Last Ritual isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t for everyone. In fact, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a game for very few people. Those few people who are willing to invest the time and energy into Evidence will get a very rewarding experience. While not the best Adventure game of the year, Evidence is certainly one of the most compelling and engaging. Fans of Missing will feel right at home here with a stand out sequel.