There’s an enduring love for classic point-and-click adventure games in a way that very few “retro” genres can match. The heyday for games like Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle is over, but they’re still talked about regularly – which makes it a little surprising that we don’t see more adventure games being made. Sure, we had the Sam and Max reboot a few years back, and The Walking Dead is adapting the genre to incredible effect elsewhere, but the classic PC point-and-click adventure has become something of a collective memory.
There’s no doubt, then, that Resonance is a direct response to that dearth of new titles in the genre, a game so defined by its platform, visual style and game mechanics that you can’t help but be reminded of those old titles as you play it. You will follow a linear story, you will solve occasionally frustrating, esoteric puzzles with items you’ve picked up along the way and it’ll be in 2D. It’s more than likely you’ve played it all before, and that’s the whole point.
The real hurdle is in making it seem like a fresh new attempt at this kind of game rather than a stolid, nostalgic impression of one, and it’s one that Wadjet Eye Games and XII Games have put five years of work into clearing. They’ve succeeded. Big time.
The crux of all successful adventure games lies in a compelling storyline – in a genre so bound by linearity, if you’re not making the player want to find out what’s happening then you’ve got no hope. Luckily, anecdotal evidence (i.e. me falling asleep on my laptop whilst hopelessly attempting to solve puzzles at 4 in the morning) would suggest that Resonance has this element more than covered. Opening with a news report displaying world landmarks in similar states of total devastation before yanking you into the game proper with a “60 hours earlier” subtitle, it’s clear that all will soon not be well.
Taking place in what appears to be the very near future, Resonance combines science fiction and the classic conspiracy thriller to superbly personal effect. By beautifully weaving together the stories of four interested parties (a scientist, a doctor, a detective and an investigative journalist who really hates being called a blogger), the game tells a set of individual tales under one increasingly (and literally) explosive story arc. Best of all, because you’re only privy to the movements of these people from the start of that arc, it’s never clear as to whether you should even trust your own characters’ motives.
It’s a magnificent set-up, but the best trick is in how using the various characters will reflect on the gameplay. Referential it might be, but this game is not without its innovations. Drawing on the Maniac Mansion technique of using multiple selectable characters to create more complex puzzles, Resonance twists the idea into a more story-led shape. In solving some of the more important conundrums, certain characters will be the only ones allowed into specific areas (usually afforded by their particular profession) whilst others will be the only one capable of solving a puzzle based on knowledge that they alone have.
In fact, knowledge is the key to many of the game’s most fiendish puzzles. Far from the “attach magnetised rubber chicken to string of crispy seaweed to create grappling hook” adventure game stereotype, Resonance’s key currency is in memory. Each character has, alongside their carried items, a list of Long- and Short-term Memories. The former are usually created by game events, whereas the latter are obtained by dragging and dropping points of interest into your inventory. By using these memories in conversations, you’ll be able to trick or persuade others to reveal information.
It’s a nice way to extend the scope for the variety of problems to be solved, but it’s also the game’s biggest problem as a whole. Often, the number of items which can be turned into short-term memories, not to mention the fact that there’s a limit to how many memories can be stored, means that you’ll have to schlep across the city just to look at something more vigorously in order to talk about it with someone. Similarly, the fact that you’re in control of several characters means that the scripting can become a little shaky – I had one major puzzle solved earlier than it should have been and ended up making a much simpler one involving the same object a serious problem.
The puzzles themselves can sometimes fall a little into the trap of abandoning any kind of sense simply to provide the player with a solvable problem. But, then again, this a classic adventure game – when has that ever not been an issue? The fact is, Resonance is dogged in its attempt to reinvigorate the genre – so much so that the problems themselves can seem oddly comforting. That comfort is hammered home in the graphical style, a stunning mix of colours and settings that reminded me of adventure classic Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Most impressive are the series of interactive nightmares that pepper one character’s personal plotline. Similarly, the voice acting, whilst occasionally a bit spare, is universally great, with the likes of Logan Cunningham (of “being awesome in Bastion”) fame injecting some necessarily actor-ly qualities into the excellent plot.
Looked at as a whole, Resonance pulls off the most successful outcome a self-consciously “retro” game can achieve by reminding you constantly of the lineage this kind if game comes from, but never indulging in parody or knowing reference. It’s an over-used sentiment these days, but this game is for everyone – if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll constantly reminisce; if you’re completely new to it, you’ll have no less an experience for being unfamiliar with what’s come before. It’s perfectly pitched and what results is one of the most satisfyingly put together, straightforwardly old- school adventure games for at least a decade. Never infuriatingly complex but always intriguing – helped along by an excellent storyline and beautiful visuals – Resonance is simply wonderful.
Graphics: 4.5/5 – Nostalgically motivated but beautiful across the board.
Sound: 4/5 – Great voice acting for an indie title and a good soundtrack, if a little repetitive.
Gameplay: 5/5 – An incredible mix of classic ideas and new twists on them. The perfect adventure game.
Longevity: 2/5 – Won’t take more than around 4-6 hours to finish and, with only very minor differences in endings, doesn’t hold up to replay value.
Overall: 4.5 science experiments gone horribly wrong out of 5
A classic genre has been given new life by developers who not only understand the conventions, but how to make them even better for an audience who might not be familiar with the inspirations. Resonance is fantastic from start to finish.
- Joe Skrebels