The Samaritan Paradox
Publisher: Screen 7
Developer: Faravid Interactive
Release Date: 04/18/2014
One of the great things about the point-and-click genre is that it allows for a different kind of story to be told. For example, it’s hard to make a first-person shooter out of something like Monkey Island. You could try, but I’m pretty sure something would be lost in translation.
The yarn that The Samaritan Paradox weaves is one that, like the aforementioned Monkey Island, couldn’t conceivably work in any other genre. This is a tale that needed to be told in an adventure game.
It goes like this: Ord is a cryptologist with all sorts of problems. He’s recently dumped, he can’t make rent, and he’s suffering from writer’s block when it comes to his thesis. In order to cheer him up, his friend hands him the last novel of a famed author. Through keen observation, Ord discovers an encoded message meant for the author’s daughter. She theorizes this is the start of a treasure hunt her father created to help her find her inheritance. She hires Ord to solve the mystery in return for half of whatever is at the end. Sensing adventure, he accepts.
While the characters aren’t the most developed, the story is quite interesting because of the mystery. The various clues take to you to various places and have you meet various people. The mystery of the dead author also permeates the action. What was thought to have been a suicide might have been in fact a murder, there might be an evil corporation behind things, and even a bit of church corruption as the cherry on top.
I’d like to say that all of these events unfold naturally. For a time, they do, but it kind of falls apart at the end. The clues clearly lead to chapters of a missing novel, but the trail kind of goes cold during the penultimate chapter. The events that lead to the discovery of the final chapter. It’s possible that, for reasons revealed later on, that the treasure hunt was never properly finished. If not, there was far too much luck involved in solving the mystery. I had a lot of unanswered questions at the end.
Another point worth mentioning is the big twist ending. While the story isn’t particularly light-hearted, it doesn’t get overly serious until the very end. The shocking truth is incredibly dark. I pretty much stared at the screen in disbelief. Then there was another point after that where I started getting really uncomfortable. I won’t elaborate, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. However, it’s worth noting that players should beware.
Overall, it’s a solid journey with an ending that could leave a bad taste in your mouth. If you’re a fan of mysteries, you’ll likely find the trip worthwhile.
As for the presentation, this game is decidedly old school. Everything is a mess of pixels instead of polygons. While that look can be great, Samaritan Paradox is mostly just OK. Resonance, a point-and-click from a couple years back, pulled the look off thanks to smart use of color and animations. Most of the locations for this game are fairly well detailed, but bleak and unappealing. There’s a lot of gray. The animations are often repetitive and simple. It’s not a great looking game by any stretch. The best thing I can say for it is that you can tell what everything is supposed to be.
There’s a lot of voice acting in this game. While I’ve heard much worse, what’s here can sometimes become grating. Ord usually sounds great, but the supporting cast can often sound uninterested. Sara, the author’s daughter, is particularly guilty of this. The quality of the recording drops at times too. Some of the voices sound like they were recorded in a bathroom or something. They’re noticeably worse. The good news is that the music, when there is some, is fairly enjoyable. It’s an acceptable aural offering. It’s probably even better than average for the genre really.
In terms of mechanics, this game sticks to the norms. You can left click on an object to interact with it, or right click an object to hear your characters thoughts on said object. Items you can grab go into your inventory. Solving the game’s many puzzles often involve utilizing items from your inventory. For example, that locked door is no match for your key. Items in your inventory can often be combined.
Where things get a bit different are the book chapters you find. These take you out of the “real world” and put you in the imaginary world of a story book. In this book, you lead an amnesiac young woman as she travels through a fantasy world. You even go toe to toe with a dragon in a battle of wits. These chapters hide clues to what you need to do in the real world. For example, you’ll need a cipher in chapter two in order to figure out the code to a door. These chapters are items in your inventory, and can be read at your leisure. If you get stuck, you can always close the book and go back to the regular game.
The puzzles in this game are, more often than not, quite logical. There are very few leaps of logic, though a couple of the brain teasers are tough if you can’t think outside the box. For example, the end of chapter one gives you information on a bunch of constellations. If you bother to check this information, you’ll find all you need to solve two puzzles that give you the code and key to a chest. Talking to people is key as well. If there’s someone you can ask questions, chances are they have something useful to say.
The game will is of fairly decent length for this type of game. It will last you upwards of five hours to get through. For the ten dollar price tag, that’s reasonable. You can even unlock a different ending, although not enough changes to justify replaying the game from the beginning. Unlike many adventure games, there are actually plenty of non-essential elements to this game. You’ll find items that you won’t use unless you decide to water a houseplant, for example. While these kinds of items can distract you from what you need to do, it’s nice that not everything leads you down the path. Life is often filled with such distractions.
For fans of the genre, this game is certainly worth a look. Even if the story ends on a sour note, the journey to that end is satisfying enough. On top of that, logical, challenging puzzles offer a sense of accomplishment that more casual offerings simply can’t deliver.
Short Attention Span Summary
If not for a rather bizarre ending that comes out of nowhere and leaves a lot left unanswered, The Samaritan Paradox could have been one of the best adventure games in recent memory. The journey to that bizarre ending is full of interesting events and clever puzzles. If you’re a fan of the genre, this is probably something you’ll want to play. Even if it doesn’t leave you with the best taste in your mouth when all is said and done, you’ll have a lot of fun on the journey.
Tags: faravid games, PC, screen 7, the samaritan paradox