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    Reviews (the Good, the Bad, and the *Facepalm*)
    [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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