Inside Pulse 12

Review: Resonance (PC)

Resonance
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Developer: XII Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 06/19/2012

Earlier this year, Wadjet Eye Games struck gold when it published Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass. There was no praise I wasn’t willing to throw the game, and all of it was well deserved.

So, when I heard that Wadjet was publishing a new adventure game, my interest was peaked. I did some research on the game and discovered that it was Resonance, and it looked darn interesting. Resonance promised four different playable characters, a number of tricky puzzles, and a suspenseful sci-fi story. I was all kinds of interested.

Well. I’ve played the thing backwards and forwards, and I can tell you one thing. If you claim to be a fan of adventure games, then there is no excuse for you to not play this game.

Story

Resonance has a strong cast of four main characters. There’s Ed the mathematician, Anna the doctor, Ray the reporter, and Detective Bennett. These four characters are drawn together after the death of a physicist named Morales. It seems that Dr. Morales created some advanced new technology, and someone killed him to get to it. The race is on to find and unlock his hidden vault, where the gang will have to make the decision to save Morales’ work, or destroy it so that it never falls into the wrong hands.

There are a number of great touches that make this story interesting. For starters, you’re introduced to each of the main characters separately. At first, they don’t seem to be connected at all. However, they come together in a believable way. Secondly, each character has secondary characters they can interact with that give you a better idea of what they’re all about. Most importantly, they all have distinct personalities, handle similar situations differently, and are put through a wringer of events that shape them over time. I, for one, was enthralled.

Another great aspect of the game is that there are three different endings you can unlock. Each of these does something different enough to be worth seeing, and the decisions that decide what ending you get are fairly late in the game. So long as you have a save file ready to go, you can view them all without having to go through the whole thing again.

Rest assured, there are plenty of surprises, interesting characters, and tense moments to keep you going. There’s also a ton of story content, meaning you could very well miss some of it if you don’t experiment. For example, talking to a witness with the shy Ed is drastically different from using the alpha male that is Detective Bennett. You can ask the same character the same questions, and get interestingly different results.

Resonance does a great job of balancing horror, drama, and humor into one cohesive story. With four rich characters to play as and plenty of surprises, it delivers one the best video game stories I’ve played all year.

Graphics

Resonance uses outdated visuals, but uses them so well that such a decision can be forgiven. Everything is heavily pixelated. This game was simply not made for HD. However, it manages to look good despite this technological setback.

Firstly, the game uses color to perfection. The environments are well detailed, and very colorful. There isn’t a drab backdrop to be found, unless we’re talking about the hospital. Even then, the muted colors fit perfectly with the sterility associated with such a place. Even a cubicle is turned into an artistic wonder thanks to an amusing surprise I won’t spoil.

Secondly, the animations are great. The characters come to life with realistic expressions and movements. There are several big moments in the game that are done particularly well. These big moments get most of the attention, but this is truly for the best, as they carry the most impact.

Finally, the attention to detail is fantastic. Shading is something few games do well, and to see it at such an accomplished level here was a real treat. Environments are chock full of little odds and ends that give each location a distinct feel. However, you get the feeling that Aventine City could be just about any big city in the States. My favorite location is probably the subway train. Between the posters, trash on the floor, and sleeping hobo, it just feels right.

Without high tech, this game manages to look pretty darn good.

Audio

First off, the voice acting crew deserves a freaking medal. Every character is voiced to perfection, showing the right amounts of personality and emotion. You know everything you need to know about Ed within his first few lines. He’s nervous, yet committed to what he believes in. That may not seem like much, but it sets the tone. A lot has been made of Logan Cunningham (the narrator from Bastion) as Detective Bennett, but really, the whole crew is fantastic. If half of the games I’ve played over the years had this much emotion and realism in the voices, I’d be over the moon.

The music is interesting. Each piece is designed to create an atmosphere, and they succeed in that for sure. There is plenty of spooky music to help build up dread, but the real stars are the less moody tunes. For example, the muzak that plays when you’re in a hospital waiting room lends so much to creating a cohesive world. Even in the face of great disaster and tragedy, that annoying tune will keep playing… just like a real hospital. Though I would never listen to it outside of the game, it did its job to the fullest.

Sound effects are hit and miss. While what’s present is solid and fitting, there are times when the absence of sound is detrimental. Footsteps and doors are the big culprits here. I can understand if maybe the developers felt that all of those footsteps would become grating, but they’re just as conspicuous by their absence. It just feels like an oversight on an otherwise very competent aural performance.

Gameplay

Being a point-and-click adventure game, most of the controls for Resonance are pretty obvious. If you want to interact with something, all you need to do is click on it with the mouse. This is how you talk to characters, pick up objects for your inventory, and initiate puzzle sequences.

The basics are all here. The game progresses when you figure out what to do. You may have several objectives, but only one specific action will move the story forward. There’s no proper hint system, but you can get a vague idea of what to do by talking to your characters. There are some traditional puzzles, including one to open a safe, and there are some more unique ones as well. At one point, you need to hack a mainframe and pull the information you need from it. This requires tons of digging through emails and help screens to figure out login information, search criteria, and how to use a proprietary terminal. You use the keyboard for this section, which adds to the feeling that you’re personally breaking into the system.

Resonance makes use of a unique system involving long term and short term memories. When you highlight an item that can be interacted with, you can click and drag that item to your short term memory. Using this system, you can bring up your character’s thoughts on that person or thing whenever you want. Also, you can ask another character about that item. There are many puzzles that use this system, and you often can’t move forward until you ask the right question. You can hold a number of items in your STM, but they won’t stay there for long. They are cleared out after each section of the game. Long term memories, on the other hand, are stored automatically. Unlike STMs, they stay with your character permanently. Clicking on these brings up a quick scene to watch, and they give you insight, hints, and the ability to move forward. This system was very interesting and added quite a bit to the game. It takes some old ideas and reworks them into a system that almost feels new.

During a majority of the game, you’ll have up to four playable characters you can use. You can switch between them on the fly, and there are several puzzles that require you to use various combinations to move forward. For example, only Bennett can move freely at the police station, Anna has access to an area of the hospital that others don’t, and Ray has a password cracker that comes in handy. Characters can chat with each other, pass items between them, and follow each other around. It’s a well thought out system that utilizes all four of the main characters.

Resonance delivers on the basics of the genre, and moves forward with its own unique system. On top of that, the puzzles are absolutely fantastic. Not only are they interesting, but they’re tough to crack and fun as well. Even when I got stuck beyond all belief, I didn’t get frustrated because I knew the answer was one click away… all I had to do was figure out where to click. That isn’t to say that you’ll often resort to old standby of clicking on everything until something happens. It’s just that your logic might be going in a completely different direction. In that way, the game may be a bit rigid. However, the experience is still tight and enjoyable.

Replayability

There’s some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that Resonance, thanks to three possible endings, is instantly more replayable than about ninety percent of the adventure games out there. The bad news is that you can see all of those endings within ten minutes of each other if you wanted to.

Like most adventure games, there’s really only one way to move things forward. The puzzles are going to be the same every time you play through it. I started a second playthrough to take advantage of one of the special features, but found myself flying through the game at record speed. One puzzle that had probably taken me ten minutes to work through could suddenly be completed in under one. Even now, I can still remember the passwords to log in to all of the computers you need to hack.

There are achievements to hunt, and I daresay they’re all pretty much impossible to get on one playthrough. Several of them are quite tricky to get too. There’s an optional puzzle that has you cracking a code to read a journal. There’s no downside to not doing this, but it does offer a bit of back story and an achievement. So, if you’re a player who likes to completely clear out a game, you’ll have something to go for.

Overall, the game gets some points for things it does, but pretty much falls into the trap that all adventure games do. It’s only really worth one go around. That go around will last anywhere from five to ten hours, depending on how quickly you pick up on what to do, of course, but once it’s done, it’s done.

Balance

When it comes to balance in adventure games, it’s all about the puzzles. Are they too easy? Are they too hard? Are they so vague that you never get an idea as to what you’re supposed to be doing? These are the questions that must be answered. I can say, for Resonance, that the answer to all of these questions are an emphatic “no”.

The puzzles are clever, well thought out, and can be solved with logic and reason. While there are a couple of points where the game’s logic is a bit restrictive, the answers aren’t so out there that they don’t make sense. You don’t have to worry about a Layton-esque character showing up and delivering a convoluted answer based on a hunch that he never bothered to share with anyone but you. If you’re stuck, you probably haven’t exhausted all of your options.

I found it wasn’t too difficult to move forward in the game. While it is possible to fail, the game will rewind back to shortly before your death. After that, you’ll know how to avoid that failure. In the end, the game is challenging, but forgiving.

Originality

The memory system is easily the most unique aspect of the game. However, it really just serves as a new form of an old concept. Adventure games have long relied on branching conversation trees and triggered events. The memory system simply gives you more direct control of that feature. So, while it’s a novel concept that works great, I’d be a fool to praise it as anything more than a fresh coat of paint.

There are plenty of great things the game does that, when added up altogether, help it feel like something refreshing, even if it merely combines tons of old ideas into new things. Switching characters on the fly is nothing new. Da New Guys did it earlier this year. The sci-fi story is great, but we’ve seen similar stories. Resonance does a better job than most, though.

Addictiveness

The more I played the Resonance, the more I wanted to keep playing Resonance. I played through the game in about three sittings. The first one was just a preliminary boot up to make sure things were running smoothly. The other two sessions were several hours long and carried me through the game. Heck, there’s a good possibility I would have gone through the game in one sitting if I hadn’t gotten stuck at one point.

Basically, all of the pieces come together perfectly. The story is interesting, the presentation is enjoyable, and the puzzles are fantastic. How can anyone who claims to enjoy adventure games possibly put down a game like that?

Appeal Factor

This game is clearly geared towards a specific fan base. Shooter fans aren’t going to dig this, RPG fans aren’t going to clog Wadjet with pre-orders, and Maddenites won’t even know it exists. This is a game for adventure fans.

There might be some crossover with the more casual audience. After all, hidden object games can certainly work as gateway titles towards more rewarding experiences. However, this game doesn’t offer the same kind of accessibility that those players would be used to. I imagine that some could get over that, but not all.

Miscellaneous

For extras, this game has but one offering. You can choose to play with bloopers. The bloopers will appear as square icon with a letter “B” on it. Clicking the box pauses the game and plays a short audio clip from the recording process. These were amusing, and completely optional. They’re not worth plaything through the game a second time though.

If you pre-ordered the game (which you won’t be able to do by the time this review is released on launch day), there are all kinds of goodies, such as a downloadable soundtrack, wallpapers, etc. I have no idea if such features will be offered after the game’s release though.

Overall, this is a darn good adventure game that fans shouldn’t miss. This is one genre thriving because of the independent market.

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Enjoyable
Audio: Very Good
Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Great
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Above Average
Final Score: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

If you’re a fan of adventure games, Resonance is a must play! It has all of the elements fans love. The story is great sci-fi fun with more personality than most titles out there. Classic point-and-click mechanics help create some deviously creative and fun puzzles. It all adds up to create a truly enjoyable experience from start to finish. At ten dollars, the game is a must buy.

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