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    [Originally posted on 5 April 2011, when this blog was still at weblog.nl]
     

    On to The Lost Crown

    The Good

    It's a good adventure, maybe even a great one. The graphics aren't awesome, but I like them. The game is almost entirely in black and white, with occasional (and sometimes it's meaningful) use of colours. It could have just looked like a trick, but I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere in this case.
    A lot of the backgrounds seem to have been rendered from photographs / real locations. Mild spoilers: sometimes something is suddenly off: you're looking at what seems like a tear in a photograph, or a stain on the lens. Usually when there is some kind of danger, or things aren't going well.
    I love the background-sounds and music they use. Strange, mysterious, creepy or even bright and reassuring in all the right locations.

    On to the puzzles: I really like these too. They're appropriate, not overly difficult, and I can't remember any instances of too-random, so if there are any, they're few and far between. I'm a fan of the 'taking photographs of supernatural phenomena' kind of game, too. The audio recordings were very nice as well.

    I can't recall being hit over the head with disablism in this game. There was one instance where the main characters wondered if he was going crazy out loud, but it wasn't a *thing* (I hope that's understandable). It wasn't part of the plot, just a one time aside.
    The point-and-click way of operating the game was, though sometimes cluncky and tiresome, very doable and not at all stressful.

    The Bad

    The character movement was pretty stiff and strange. Turning heads or midriffs before the legs, just a body turning 90 degrees and then walking on in another direction istead of the way it usually goes, just looks weird. A lot of it looked like characters were impersonating stereotypical robot-movement.

    The game is short. Not as short as Barrow Hill, but still. These days I want more time from a game, even an adventure game that isn't big-budget. If it's not on Kongregate or similar, there are expectations.

    I didn't like the intro screen music. It was wannabe-mysterious and rather irritating. It might have been better without the singing.

    The interface is slow and unintuitive. Way too much clicking, badly done. With the number of games out there these days, they should know by now what not to do with menus and user-interface. The inventory system was also badly done: way too many objects and you need to scroll this way or that by clicking on an arrow far too much. It was something I was really dreading in any new scene by the time I was halfway through the game.

    The Facepalm

    The voice acting. I've honestly never heard anything like it. From various texts found in the game I suspect that the same person who wrote these also wrote all the voiced lines and dialogue. The punctuation is in all the wrong places and apparently the voice-actors were unable, unwilling, or not allowed to correct for this. The result is dialogue that sounds something like:
    "The Result! Is dialogue that, sounds, something...... like this?"
    It was also horribly over-acted.
    The main character is, unfortunately, the worst offender, so you're stuck listening to that constantly. It's a good thing the game was very enjoyable otherwise, because I considered quitting and never looking back, it was that aggravating.
    Other characters also speak like this, though less infuriating than the main character. There were a few half-decent sounding characters, but that was as good as it got.

     
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    [Date of original posting unknown, due to the mess weblog.nl made when they switched from typepad to wordpress]
     

    I'll do a short review of 2 adventure games I've started playing recently. I've finished neither yet, but I'm far enough in to write. I'll make it 2 separate posts, otherwise it'll become a rather long read.
    This may contain spoilers.
    Also, I play on a PC.

    First, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy for some of you).

    The (mostly) Bad: 

    Someone told me it really was an adventure game and the action wasn't that intensive and very manageable, so I decided to play the game after all, after initially rejecting it, but it turns out that the game does hang more towards action than traditional adventure gaming. Actually it's all about action, pressing buttons and moving the mouse.
    There are no real puzzles; although there is a lot of choice regarding which direction you want to take the story, the game is not hard in this respect. It's easy not to miss anything about the environment, easy to follow the story, and to decide what to do next. All the difficulty comes from the action. It is easy to miss an action sequence: the game is very real-time oriented, if you know what I mean, and an opportunity to mash a few buttons or move your mouse in the right direction can pass in the blink of an eye (in fact there were a few I really didn't even see because I was blinking or my head was turned for just a moment), the game needs constant concentrated attention, and that can be a problem.

    The Ugly:

    Which gets me to the controls. They are incredibly clunky. Really not done well. I can't really say anything good about them. It's fairly obvious this game was developed for consoles. I don't know how much effort they put into the port, and it might be that this is the best possible outcome, but it's definitely making the game a lot less fun to play. The game includes all sorts of stuff that could actually be fun (moving the mouse in certain patterns, pressing keys in the right order), but even on the easy setting it is too hard. Maybe not too hard for most people, but much too hard for me, and I suspect many other people with motor difficulties (they don't have to be severe motor difficulties either). I've had to play the game co-op with my partner, with him taking over entirely sometimes (and with me being a terrible backseat driver when it comes to watching other people play games, I have to leave the room for that too). The worst of it is that every action is on a timer.
    My fingers and wrists and arms ache from mashing buttons. If you miss or fail, it might become impossible to finish the game the way you want, since you have to get every sequence or the characters lose mental stability and get locked up or die (yeah, I'll be getting to that later). Now, some might consider this a feature, but I think that only works if it's really mostly under your control whether or not you let something slip by or take the opportunity.

    On to the good: 

    The atmosphere is marvellous. The graphics, story, voice-acting all contribute to this. No puzzles or gathering objects to figure out where to use them, but that is not a failing at all. Deciding which questions you want to ask someone (because you won't get a chance to ask all of them, and you might learn different things which might each be important), making choices like "Do I break this window or try to open it some other way?". It's a very different way of playing, and it's great. Every choice you make has meaning and consequences, and may affect the development and ending of the story. For me, this makes trying to navigate the controls worth it. Already I'm wondering what I might do differently on my next playthrough, despite all the difficulties I'm having actually playing the game.
    This game, despite the action-heavy gameplay, really is all about story and characters.

    And some more bad stuff, unfortunately:

    Insanity. The game is all about this. Here, have 3 guesses as to how well they handle it. I bet you didn't need more than one. That is right: badly. Clichés left and right. Including a prison-asylum for the criminally insane. I cringed and facepalmed all the way through (which was not good since I needed to pay attention to press the right buttons at the right times).
    All playable characters have a stress/sanity meter. During the game stuff happens which will either reduce stress / improve stability, or increase stress / reduce stability. If the meter goes all the way down, you can die or get locked up. I did not like the linearity and simplicity of this, and I feel it also reinforces the misconception that this is all much more under someone's own control than it really is.
    Also possession and/or psychic abilities <-> insanity. So cliché.
    One of the characters has a fear of small (confined) spaces and the dark. Having to keep her from freaking out when she has to venture into basements and such by controlling her breathing was one of the less faily aspects of how this game handles this kind of stuff. I did like that a successful detective can be shown to have this kind of phobia.

    Conclusion:

    All in all, I like this game a lot. I think it's worth playing, but others will have to decide for themselves whether they want to brave the controls and the way the game handles mental illness. If you have motor skills issues like mine, you might want to just leave it alone unless you have, and don't mind needing, someone there with you to help out with the controls.

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