The Experiment: Demo, Intrigue

By John Walker on February 5th, 2008 at 7:26 pm.

The Experiment is released in the US today, having come out in French late last year. And I’m rather excited about it. Developers, Lexis Numérique, have just started shipping copies of their new game (called Experience 112 in Europe), to US stores, and there’s a demo available (at 43.4 Peggles). But first, an anecdote.

The Experiment

Every now and then, this job affords you an opportunity to do something nice. Too often we games critics are responsible for letting people know the game they were looking forward to, or worse, pre-ordered, is going to be a pile of stinky poo. But occasionally, it works the other way around. One of my favourite examples was In Memoriam. A French adventure game published by Ubisoft, who were too ashamed to send out review copies. PC Gamer’s Ross Atherton had to walk to the shops and buy it himself, and it was given to me to review in half a page, because, well, they gave me all the crappy French adventures.

In Memoriam

It, of course, blew away all expectations, by being something stunningly original, and completely fascinating. ARG’s were pretty much unknown at the time (2003), and the concept was bewildering. Inside the box was a black, unmarked disc, and details explaining that the police had been unable to figure it out, so they were turning to you. Two reporters had gone missing, and a potential murderer had released this disc of clues as to their whereabouts. But in order to solve the puzzles in the game, you had to use the real world. Or was it real? The developers had created very many websites, scattered across the internet, which contained information necessary for puzzle solving. But to blur things brilliantly, those sites linked to genuine websites that were also vital. For instance, when trying to find out about another missing girl who attended Oxford University, you have to work out which Oxford college she was at, by using data from inside the game and the official Oxford Uni website. Then by searching her full name and the college details, you found a mocked up Oxford site, including a forum where students were discussing her disappearance, and then, a link to her blog, with three months of entries. Remarkable detail.

Identify the clock!

Unfortunately this wonderful idea rather disintegrated into some crappy Flash puzzles by the end. But it was a fantastic experience along the way.

So of course I had to let everyone know. Gamer increased the review size to give it some decent coverage, and I pestered other mags to make sure they featured it to. So, Ubi, you owe me some PR fees there I think.

Which is all to say, I’m enormously looking forward to Lexis Numérique’s new game, The Experiment.

The trailer is in French, but should give you an impression:


Gamestrailers, merci.

The concept is, again, intriguing. It deliberately separates you from the action, only allowing you to influence what happens indirectly. You’re at the controls of a broken ship, in front of a computer showing various surveillance images and menus. From there you guide Professor Lea Nichols through the complex ship structure, hopefully safety. But things are more interesting, as you aren’t aware if you can trust her, nor she you, and indeed you have no idea how you found yourself trapped in this situation. As you go along, you piece together the information.

Fourth-person action?

The sense of detachment is superb. You not only can’t control the on-screen character, but you can’t directly interact with the environment around her either. Instead you have a series of windows open on your desktop (the developers once again applying a reality of place for approaching the game – you are very much sat at a computer with a number of windows open), showing camera images, maps, and file management tools for accessing personel data files. You can open doors, and operate machinery, from the map, but beyond this you’re relying on Lea. Who is, in turn, relying on you.

If only they had spent more time translating the text, as the demo’s vocals are pretty dreadful, and very often make no sense at all. The actor chosen isn’t particularly enigmatic, which is probably going to be a worrying failing. But the concept remains utterly enticing.

The demo lets you play a significant opening chunk of the game, to get an idea of how it all works. As for a UK release? We’ve no idea at all. Time to start doing the PR again, methinks.

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21 Comments »

  1. fluffy bunny says:

    I loved the demo of this. But the problem is Micro Application. They seem completely uninterested in releasing anything of theirs in the UK or other European markets where English is the main language. This will probably end up like the sequel to In Memoriam, and never get a decent European release outside of the French/German markets. :-(

  2. The_B says:

    Whatever happened to In Memoriam 2 anyway? I was looking foward to it, and it seemed to get a US release, but all was quiet on the Western Front. As it were.

  3. fluffy bunny says:

    Yeah, it got an US release, as Evidence: The Last Ritual (or Missing 2: Evidence). Micro Application didn’t bother releasing the English version in Europe (or if they did, it was only in very few markets).

  4. The_B says:

    I ended up getting the first game from my local Poundland, I’m ashamed to say. Not just the fact that it was in Poundland I’m ashamed of mind, but more the fact I waited so long before I did get it.

    Still. I wouldn’t mind knowing if number two is any good, if anyone has played it.

  5. Ferrous Buller says:

    The premise sounds reminiscent of Lifeline, albeit without the voice commands.

  6. Willy359 says:

    Holy shit! There was a sequel to In Memorium? Why didn’t anybody tell me? Now I have to go dig it up somewhere.

    My only complaint about In Memorium was that whenever I used the Internet to search for clues, most of the top-ranked hits were from hint sites. Continually trying to ignore these while looking for the “real” sites didn’t do much for my suspension of disbelief.

  7. Troll says:

    ‘I can’t get Jurassic Park back online without Dennis Nedry!’

  8. Yhancik says:

    I was interested the first time i heard about it (in a comment on RPS actually !)… but the reviews I read here and there ~ mostly the user reviews actually ~ were kind of mixed. Everyone agree to say it’s a refreshing game, but many complain about the game being resources hungry, kind of repetitive at some point and sloooow (you character doesn’t really run). Some also mentioned that if the idea is original, at some point you feel useless, because you’re mostly moving the character (so you could have made it in a classic first/third person view). And that you might end up “clicking everywhere”.. which is not a good Adventure Game behaviour.
    Oh, and the usual botched up ending :p
    So I don’t know.. i’m a bit dampened..

  9. Theory says:

    I’m a feeling a bit dampened too. ;-)

    Separating the player from the player character is something I’ve been looking into lately. This is certainly an interesting approach to solving the problem, but very limited in its application.

  10. CrashT says:

    Second time I downloaded the demo and once again it wouldn’t installed, crashed the moment I tried to run it. :(

  11. John Walker says:

    If it’s not working, try getting the one from the game’s official site, linked above. The original version of the demo (in a zip) was broken. The one on their site works fine.

  12. Kast says:

    There was an In Memoriam 2!?! *Sobs for the loss of the game he never knew* I adored In Memoriam and I’m so glad that it is remembered. I got seriously freaked out by it at first – that weird knotted feeling brought on by the sensation someone is watching you. Worse, that two peoples lives depend on your actions. And then I mentally slapped myself and remembered that it was just a game. Right?

    The Experiment looks awfully interesting but given the comments of poor localisation, I think I’ll leave it for a while. Something so dependant on atmosphere deserves coming to with it fresh and pure.

  13. Dinger says:

    I have to say, that trailer is good-n-creepy: take the third-person perspective and make explicit the unease/voyeurism required. I may have to drop down to the local FNAC and see if they have it lying around. (if localisation sucks, get it in the intended language, I always say).

  14. James T says:

    UN SYSTEME DE SURVEILLANCE? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

    I liked this game better when it had a theme song.

    …Wait, no I didn’t.

  15. Dinger says:

    Hey, the guy, the utilization of Babelfish for localisation, that made to ski.

    A. The interface is a little inelegant. Managing windows is a pain.
    B. The localisation is appalling. In a nutshell: I spent 15 minutes at one point looking for a password that Lea kept telling me was “in Dr. X’s Personal File”. So I went through his personal file area three times, and didn’t find the password. Then it dawns: she wants me to look in his fichier de personnel, aka his personnel file, indicated by the gallicism “collaborators”.

    Still it looks like it could be fun. I wish she’d be more nervous and fidget around more when the player read through her personal files.

  16. Nuyan says:

    Why did you put this image there? I seriously saw that clock a week ago when I was in Prague! It must be the same thing.

  17. Dean says:

    There was an expansion pack to In Memoriam too.

  18. Kast says:

    Hey, is there a torrent of this demo anywhere?

  19. Jimi Hendrix says:

    roar when will it be getting a UK release :(