Where Angels Cry
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Cateia Games
Release Date: 10/03/2012
Where Angels Cry has got to be one of the coolest names for a Big Fish game I’ve seen yet. It also has a pretty cool setting. Playing as an agent of the Vatican in thirteenth century Italy leaves the door open for one heck of a religious-themed mystery.
So, is this one of the rare casual games that manages to transcend it’s genre, or is this another game for fans only?
The story starts off with your character receiving instructions from the Cardinal. It turns out that there are some odd happenings up at the monastery in Lombardy. A brother has gone missing and a statue has started weeping blood. Is this is a miracle, or a terrible omen. It’s your job to investigate both of these things while undercover.
Unlike a lot of causal adventure games, WAC actually has a pretty straight forward plot progression. You start off with very little knowledge, and then slowly uncover the truth. Each new chapter brings some sort of revelation, or at least progresses the plot. It all builds up to a pretty darn interesting end section.
If there’s one area where the game stumbles, it’s the ending. While the actions you take are pretty darn great, the payoff isn’t there. There are a few loose ends that don’t get tied up. In truth, the ending feels kind of rushed. I wasn’t expecting it to come when it did.
There are some positives and some negatives.
There are some full CG sequences that look pretty good. Characters don’t look bad up close, and the animations are pretty nice as well. There are some hiccups, such as a horse that doesn’t leave tracks in the snow, but they are mostly forgivable.
The art for the game is pretty nice as well. You’d expect a church to look good, as they were pretty intricate back in the day. However, the aesthetic for the entire game is in keeping with the period. It’s not realistic, but it’s far from cartoonish. It finds a nice medium there.
Where the game stumbles is the human models. They don’t move, have blank faces, and look almost like paper cutouts stuck onto the screen. It was very eerie to look at.
Musically, the game plays it safe. The tunes are mellow and relaxing, with a heavy focus on bells. I actually found myself humming along at a couple of points, which says good things. The tone of the game might be serious, but the music helps it keep the casual nature that the gameplay represents.
Voice acting is all over the place. Initially, I was quite hopeful. The first few voices I heard were quite good. The accents weren’t overstated and some actual emotion was getting through. However, once I got to the church, I came across a series of terrible voice acting. The cook’s attempt at an Italian accent is one of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard. The accents were not consistent as well. One lad in the village had some sort of Irish accent, despite the fact that he was supposed to be a native Italian.
The rest of the package is pretty par for the courses. There are plenty of sound effects such as keys clicking into place, creaky doors opening, and pages turning. It’s acceptable stuff at every level, though it never does anything to set itself apart from the pack.
WAC is one of the rare Big Fish Games to be an actual adventure game. By that I mean there are no hidden object sequences to be found. This game is all about interacting with the environment and solving the occasional mini-game.
Navigating the game’s environment is simple. You simply need to move the cursor to an exit and click. Each of the game’s chapters locks the map. You can’t access the entire game world at any time. This makes sense both for the story, and for keeping the player from visiting areas where there is nothing to do. The areas you investigate don’t tend to be very big, making it easy to go from location to location. Towards the beginning, several areas are reused to include new points of interest.
Most of the game is spent hunting various locations for items you need to progress. For example, one early mission has you doing some chores in the greenhouse. This requires you to find the tools to work the ground, as well as the seeds that you will plant. It’s a multi-step process that requires a bit of searching to get everything. For example, you need to water your newly planted cabbage seeds. However, the well crank is frozen solid, so you’ll need to find a way to thaw it out. In addition, you’ll need a bucket to fill with water. Some items can be combined to create a new item, though you’ll have to use your own intuition to figure out what items can be joined.
The game makes heavy use of a mechanic where you need to find several examples of the same item. You may need four gems to place in a device, or three coins to bribe a guard. This kind of gets old really, as each chapter has several of these items.
For mini-games, the game comes equipped with all the standard puzzles you see in similar games. There’s a slide puzzle, a puzzle where you need to light all of the objects up, and another where you need to unscramble a picture. There was one rather interesting mini-game. You have to try to match three sword tokens to lower an opponent’s health while avoiding skull tokens that deplete yours. It was the most novel feature of the game.
Overall, this is a pretty standard title. Veterans will be able to breeze through the game without a hitch, and newcomers can rely on the helpful hint button if they get stuck.
This game has a series of achievements, which is a widening trend among Big Fish Games these days. A lot of these involve making it through the game without using hints/skips. There are others that involve hunting down objects that don’t otherwise affect gameplay.
One of the achievements, however, speaks to how short the game is. There’s one for completing the game in under three hours. That may seem hard, but I managed to get it on my first try. I skipped only one puzzle on that playthrough, and that was because I really hate slide puzzles. It’s a really short game.
A subsequent playthrough will result in the same experience as the previous one. The puzzles and item locations are unchanged. Worse still, the collectibles you need for the achievements are all back. Still, the achievements in general offer at least some reason to go back to the game.
Like most causal adventure games, the level of challenge depends on how you want to play. Using hints and skips makes the game a cinch to complete quickly. Playing on casual makes it so anything you can interact with sparkles. You can also slow the rate of the hint recharge. Veterans can feel safe in selecting the highest difficulty though.
Overall, the game was pretty easy. The only times I got stuck were where I simply didn’t notice a tiny little item on the corner of the screen. That’s a failure on my part, as I’ve played enough of these games by now to know where to look.
WAC plays it extremely safe by conforming to industry standards from top to bottom. Every mechanic is copied and pasted from other games. The puzzles are the same kinds of puzzles I’ve seen countless times before.
The story is the most original thing about the game, and that’s just because the game has a competent one. It doesn’t simply set up the scenario and then throw you into a giant maze to find the ending. The plot moves forward at a nice pace. It’s sad, but that’s different from most other titles in the genre.
Like several times before, I managed to beat this game in a single sitting. However, unlike a lot of those previous accomplishments, I was actually hooked to this game. A good story is all it takes to keep an adventure gamer hooked, and WAC has a good enough story to push through it’s less than three hour length.
Where the game really shines is in how it constantly changes location to keep things from getting stale. You don’t often revisit locations once you’ve left them, so you’re constantly being given new areas to uncover. In the cases where you do revisit a location, things have changed enough to stave off boredom.
This is easily recommendable to adventure fans. The story is solid enough to keep things interesting. The achievements also add a modicum of replay value that similar games simply do not have. It won’t rewrite what you know about causal titles, but it will satisfy the adventure game itch.
For newer players, this game is also a great choice. The mechanics are very friendly, and the tightly crafted design keeps you from getting lost. There’s plenty of things to find in each location, which might get old, but the story is once again there to keep you interested.
Sadly, the game does not come with any extras. This is especially sad because an extra chapter that ties up the major loose end would be have been more than welcome.
Graphics: Above Average
Audio: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Final Score: Decent Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Where Angels Cry is a competent adventure game that thrives thanks to an interesting story. This allows many of the game’s minor flaws to be forgiven, such as the awful voice acting and the ugly character models. Fans of the genre could definitely do a lot worse, and newcomers will find this a friendly introduction.
Tags: Big Fish Games, Cateia Games, PC, Where Angels Cry