A Golden Wake
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Developer: Grundislav Games
Release Date: 10/09/2014
A Golden Wake tells the tale of Coral Gables, a real life City in sunny Florida. For the developer, this tale is a personal one. Coral Gables is his hometown, after all. However, that doesn’t mean this yarn is nothing more than a dry historical lecture. As a matter of fact, A Golden Wake is an interesting character study of a man caught in the roller coaster that was The Roaring Twenties.
Alfie Banks is a young hotshot real estate agent living the big city life in New York. A string of unfortunate events puts Alfie down on his luck until he spots an ad for a new land development outside of Miami. Looking to restore the family name, Alfie heads down south. There he lands a job working for George Merrick. Merrick is a developer looking to create a brand new city in what used to be worthless swampland.
What makes Alfie an interesting character is that his ambition drives him to do incredible things. As Alfie, you’ll chat up some of the most important people of the time, participate in an air show, get involved with bootleggers, and other such shenanigans. Alfie just wants to succeed at any cost. While this doesn’t initially put him on the wrong side of the law, you can easily see how he could fall that way.
In the backdrop of Alfie’s fall from grace is the growth of Coral Gables. You’ll be there during the city’s first days. You’ll be there when the first mayor is picked, when the landmark Biltmore Hotel is built, and when the stock market crash brings the city to its knees. If you’re not from or familiar with Coral Gables, it can be hard to keep track of some of the historical stuff. However, it’s a tale that still resonates well because it isn’t hard to compare Coral Gables to whatever city you’re from. Booms and busts are just part of the history of any city in this country.
A Golden Wake uses a style of storytelling that allows it to move around instead of following a straight path. Alfie’s descent is a slow one. It takes place over several years. The game skips ahead to the important parts of his life, and the life of Coral Gables. This creates an almost episodic feel to the game. Locations and characters change as the years pass, and you won’t need to go backwards. A construction zone in the back of a screen during one time period becomes a massive hotel in the next. It keeps the game going at a quick pace, but doesn’t sacrifice Alfie’s story to do so.
While I won’t say the tale of A Golden Wake is an instant classic or one that will satisfy everyone, I will say that is is an enjoyable story with an interesting protagonist. The supporting cast could be a bit stronger, but at least players are walking in the shoes of someone interesting. This is definitely the kind of story that would only work in an adventure game. Fans of the genre will likely find it to be well worth their time.
The game uses a classic pixel art look. The good news is that it features solid animations and interesting looking character portraits. Unfortunately, the character models themselves look blurry and nondescript. It’s often hard to tell who’s who in a crowd. The backdrops look great though, as attention to detail and use of color create a number of great looking locations. We’ve seen better from other indie games, so AGW doesn’t really stand out. It’s fine as pixel art goes, but could certainly use a bit more brushing up.
Aurally, the game fares much better. While the voice acting isn’t necessarily top of the line, they read their lines well and with emotion. We certainly don’t get stuck with the usual problems of people using odd tones or reading a statement like a question. Alfie is the best voice of the bunch, which is great as he has by far the most lines. Musically, the game uses a nice collection of ragtime tunes and other period pieces that help the Jazz Age shine like a new penny. The music pretty much always fits the tone of the game. The only problem is that it loops a bit much for my tastes. If you get stuck on a screen for a long period of time, the songs will start to get grating. As for the effects, they work fine. The right sounds are played at the appropriate time. That’s all we ask.
A Golden Wake follows the typical formula for point-and-click games. You control Alfie by simply left-clicking where you want him to go. If you want to talk to a person, click that person. If you want to interact with an item, click that item. It’s as simple as you get. You can also right-click any object or person in the game in order to get Alfie’s thoughts on them. This can often give you a clue towards how to progress. You’ll know you can interact with something or someone if their name pops up when you hover the cursor over them. This keeps you from clicking on random things in the hopes of moving forward.
Like most adventure games, AGW uses an inventory system to keep track of the things you pick up along the way. This might include a matchbook for that fire you need to start, a note to give to someone, or a key to unlock a door. Using an item is easy. All you have to do is click on the item, and then click on the thing you want to use the item. This can even include other items in your inventory. There are plenty of puzzles in the game that require you to make use of your inventory. The good news is that you’ll never have more than four or so items on hand. This keeps the trial-and-error down.
There are also plenty of more traditional puzzles in the game as well. For example, in order to get someone to leave their house, you’ll need to play a little I Spy in order to locate code violations. You’ll point out mold, cracked tiles, shoddy framework and other things. There are also several logic puzzles that task you with figuring out which house to sell to which clients. Thankfully, you won’t have to deal with the typical slide puzzles or anything similar to that. What’s here isn’t too difficult, but will get you thinking.
As a salesman, Alfie will occasionally need to convince someone to his way of thinking. When this happens, you’ll be given a series of prompts. You’ll have to choose what approach to take. For example, when you need to convince a gunman to not rob you, you’ll need to decide whether to beg the guy or threaten him with reprisal. You can use Alfie’s seller’s intuition to get a hint if you need to. Interestingly enough, failing these sections doesn’t result in a do over. Instead, you’ll have to figure out a more traditional method of progressing. If you can’t convince the guy to pay up, maybe your buddy with the gun can. It is more rewarding to talk your way out of things, though.
Honestly, the game doesn’t do much that you won’t find in other adventure games. Where it earns points is in that episodic feel. There are often only a handful of locations to visit at any one time. This means you won’t have to scour a huge map in order to figure out what to do or what item you need to progress. Even if you get stuck, it won’t take you long to get back on track. This keeps the game more focused and accessible.
Short Attention Span Summary
A Golden Wake may not be the next great adventure game, but it is still a solid title. The main character carries the story well the presentation has its charms, and the gameplay is solid. Of particular note, the game plays out like a series of shorter chapters. This keeps the player on the right track and cuts down on the more traditional “click on everything until something happens” mentality. Adventure fans will likely enjoy this game quite well.