Adventure games are a difficult entity. Not only to publishers and gamers due to their lack of selling power and replayability, but even when they’re really good, you can only gush so much about them without ruining things. Giving examples is hard, and plot revelation is a bit of a minefield. The better the story, the more you want to write about it, so the more you have to fight it. As has been the case more than once with a Wadjet Eye point-and-clicker, this has been the case, and Resonance is no exception.
There’s no getting away from the fact that a lot of games that are published under the Wadjet Eye banner recall the heyday of the adventure genre in the 1990s. Of course, this era is the yardstick by which all adventure games are measured, and on the evidence of what’s being put out, will continue to be so for some time. Many of this publisher’s titles go beyond that comparison, though, and are often directly comparable to specific titles. Resonance, as well as Gemini Rue before and Primordia since, all appear to be disciples of Beneath A Steel Sky, as if the year was 1995 and 320x240 window resolution was still considered to be acceptable. All three titles share the Amiga classic’s themes of dystopia and advanced technology, as well as moral quandaries. That’s not to say that each game tries to emulate Beneath A Steel Sky in too literal a sense, as each title has its own distinctive style and palette within similar graphic confines. The ancestor’s classic images of skyscrapers and futuristic industry are most readily seen in Gemini Rue, but the similarity is partially dispelled by the latter’s intertwining dual story thread, which often steps away from the generic sci-fi facility. Indeed, the beginning of the game almost evokes film noir, with the lead character in a coat, seeking shelter from the rain on a dark night outside some gates. The level of futurism is in fact evocative of Dreamweb at such times, answering the unasked question of what that title would have looked like if it wasn’t presented in plan view. While Primordia is presented mostly in shades closely resembling black, Resonance is a little more tangible. Its palette ironically paints a pleasant enough modern city, set perhaps an envisaged decade ahead of the 2012 release date. The steel-and-glass of modern architecture is spliced with the crumbling brick foundations of less affluent boroughs and stereotypically-cast public transport. Dystopia is merely a looming concept that grows in stature as the game progresses, rather than a way of life for the inhabitants.
|Your line-up is the cop, the scientist,|
the nurse and the reporter
|A noirish introduction for the|
|The inventory is still the mainstay|
of the genre
|Memories and objects outside of|
inventory are used in the same way
The story itself is a captivating one, with threads starting off loose, quickly intertwining and winding up very taut, and suddenly splintering off again. There is no perfect satisfactory ending, which will infuriate some players. But, more so than in films or books, the important parts of the story in adventure games are sometimes the points that you control rather than cutscenes provided as a reward for solving puzzles. This is Resonance to a tee, as most of the story unfolds in the middle of the gameplay. This is about enjoying the ride more than reaching the end.
Your four characters, set in the supposedly grim but very
generic-looking Aventine City, are Tolstoy “Ed” Eddings, a bespectacled dweeb
of a mathematician, Detective Winston Bennet, a hardboiled cop with emotional
and physical baggage, Anna Castellanos, an inwardly disturbed nurse, and a
well-connected freelance journalist Raymond “Ray” Abbot, who is continuously
derided as a blogger. We start with Ed going to visit his superior, Dr Javier “Javi”
Morales at his laboratory to discuss some potentially dangerous new technology.
A blackout occurs, and a very peculiar explosion at the laboratory stands as
the key driving event for most of the game. The four characters are drawn in
one by one by the death of Dr Morales, each by an apparent sense of vocational duty,
although we are aware by this point that Anna is a relative of Morales. The
game goes forth with the four characters seeking answers about the technology
that caused the explosion, with each character using their social status to get
access to different areas (such as Bennet being allowed access to the Police
Administration headquarters on account of being a police detective). Some
one-frame puzzles that you get in the cheap-and-nasty puzzle titles of the day
do appear, but they’re nothing more than the occasional break from the
dialogue-driven puzzles that move most of the game forward. A gamut of plot
twists is pretty much a requirement, but Resonance
doesn’t disappoint, and all but the very sharp and the very lucky will be caught
surprised a couple of times. The characters are not fully developed, but this
serves the purpose of keeping us guessing and focused on the story itself.
There are a few silly sides like a score count and Steam achievements, but they’re
not in your face and you don’t have to care about them other than worrying that
you’re near the end.
The overall tone is pretty serious, far more so than Beneath A Steel Sky. The slight humour
involved usually revolves around the reporter’s output being a blog, the
occasional sexist lapse of the aging detective, and a receptionist’s dating
exploits. It’s actually quite refreshing in a way, as almost all
point-and-click games (and indeed many outside the genre) are compelled to
refer to rubber chickens, the “death” of the genre, or some other not-so-subtle
nod to an adventure game of the past in the form of an in-joke to veterans of
the LucasArts 90s titles that still form a large part of the target audience of
today’s independent point-and-click publishers.
|Bennet can keep his cool inches away|
from his stake-out target
|The job flusters him a bit more|
when murder and science are about
|Bennet can take one other character|
up to interrogation in police HQ
|The hospital is more open, but only|
Anna can gain access to certain floors
|The narrative compels you with|
a magnetic force