Staying Alive: Still Life 2

By John Walker on June 24th, 2008 at 12:10 pm.

Sultry and pre-rendered.

I’m a little bit surprised to hear news of Still Life 2. It’s reasonably likely that you missed the original – an adventure game that should, were it to have been finished, have been almost okay. But instead it was hopeless, a murder mystery with no ending, no resolution, and littered with the most ludicrous puzzles imaginable. I have faint memories of needing to use a crane to move some crates so some dogs wouldn’t bite me, but the crane required I solve a peculiar puzzle to be able to move its levers, as it was apparently designed by a mad sadist. And a gingerbread recipe in code. And in the game.

(Oddly, the developers, Game-Go, are reluctant to admit the game exists, not mentioning it anywhere on their website. Further, the revived publisher MICROÏDS deny all knowledge. I’d love to bring you some screenshots, but, well, it’s tough. So instead I’ve decorated the rest of this post with shots of Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons.)

A boat on the sea, yesterday.

It was left unended because MICROÏDS completely ran out of money and went under. Some extraordinary bollocks was then spouted about the game being a prelude to an online ARG (alternative reality game), as if to justify just sort of stopping midway through the story, but still being able to sell it. Of course there was no ARG. There was no point.

MICROÏDS are back from the dead. Oh, the unbridled joy. And so, it appears, is Still Life, which is rather generously receiving a sequel. For those in the Adventure Games = Heroin camp, any fix is a fix, and Still Life’s having decent graphics and writing was enough to herald it as the greatest achievement of mankind. Despite having the most idiotic puzzles in the most ludicrous circumstances (it even featured the 3 litre/5 litre jugs to make 4 litres puzzle – ultrasigh), and the small matter of just randomly stopping when it ran out of money, fans demanded more. Poor junkie fans.

The deck of a ship, literally.

Witness the new rip-roaring trailer!

Despite focusing on a new serial killer, it’s promised that Still Life 2 will get around to finishing the first game’s story. In the first game where you played FBI agent Victoria McPherson, and also as her grandfather in flashbacks based on his diary entries, apparently pursuing the same killer. Of course, this was never explained, but it did feature the rather nice idea that the grandfather’s version of the incidents might not have been entirely true, but rather his embellished perspective. That’s all gone now, with McPherson chasing after the East Coast Torturer – a killer who apparently cleans his victims after death – as well as playing as his current hostage, Paloma Hernandez. Who knows, maybe it will have an ending? Preferably without a series of disingenuous tile puzzles and lifts operated by Rubik’s cubes.

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32 Comments »

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  1. fluffy bunny says:

    I liked Still Life.

  2. JJ says:

    I liked Still Life as well (kinda, nice atmosfere), but I like this rant even more :-)

  3. kuddles says:

    I liked Still Life, but I think it was more because it was the same people who did the Syberia games (sans Benoît Sokal, who left to form his own company and created the much worse Paradise). I do admit it was flawed.

    I recall one of the devs posting in an adventure games forums explaining that Microids in it’s previous form was broke, so the reason it ends so upruptly and feels somewhat unpolished is they were forced to ship the game months in advance or they might never be able to release it at all.

  4. AbyssUK says:

    On Ship Simulator 2008 am loving the dolphin deck art BUT can you re-enact the scene from “The Day After Tomorrow” were the oil tanker crashes down the streets of New York?
    If not that is a horribly missed opportunity..

  5. Lunaran says:

    I just liked the word “ultrasigh.”

  6. Strelok says:

    Crane + Dogs = Full Throttle !

  7. Pod says:

    I liked Still Life. No wait, I never played it. I like Syberia though. Still, consider my roars ripped by that trailer.

  8. John Walker says:

    Syberia was surprisingly lovely.

    Shame about Syberia 2…

  9. fluffy bunny says:

    I liked Syberia 2.

  10. AbyssUK says:

    Syberia 1 2 are both awesome… what was wrong with Syberia 2! it was more of the same surely! Syberia 2 was also very hard it took me a while which is good for an adventure game!

    Also Dogs Crane That’s how those wolves got onto the tanker! so obvious now..

  11. icegreentea says:

    Who thought this was about Portal?

  12. FP says:

    Still Alive 2? Yay. Oh wait…

  13. ligurmatic says:

    I got stuck early in Syberia, but would like to return to it should I run out of recent games to play in my gaming-time. This is, however, rather unlikely.

  14. Rook says:

    Cutting a game off with some sort of cliffhanger seems to be almost standard practice these days so it really isn’t that jarring in Still Life.

  15. roskelld says:

    Never got past the intro of Still Life, I put it on straight after finishing Syberia 2– Boy did I love those games. I hope Kate Walker is still enjoying herself in her new career.

    Yea, Still Life, I think after playing both Syberia’s back-to-back I needed a break and just never got back round to playing it.
    Might be a good thing if the sequel gets to wrap up the cliff hanger ending.

  16. Dean says:

    I liked Still Life. Yes, there were some utterly shit puzzles but there were like, 3. The rest were quite good. And the recipe puzzle wasn’t even that bad, other than the fact it made no sense as part of the story (though not as ridiculous as the jigsaw puzzle in Culpa Inata…).
    Of course, it’s so long since the last game, this sequel will have to stand alone, which means it won’t be the second half of the game most the fans want. I sort of wish they’d just finish it and package it with a tarted up version of the first game.

  17. Ozzie says:

    @AbyssUK: Syberia 2 was the same but with frustrating, needlessly longwinded puzzles, some of the Trial&Error kind, without a fascinating story but a lame plot with ordinary bad guys.
    There was nothing new to the mythology and we knew Hans more through Syberia 1 than 2!!
    You know, in Syberia 1 it’s explained that automatons have a soul and actually help people while those modern machines (like mobile phones) just enslave the humans to technology or something of that kind.
    So what does Hans create at the beginning of Syberia 2? A mobile phone!! It goes totally against his character and the nature of the story! At this point puzzles got more important than the plot and characterization. Of course, the additional mobile phone was important in later situations for some puzzles, so you could annoy Oscar.
    Don’t forget the ridiculous puzzle where you have to get the attention of the pilot who hangs in the trees with his parachute.
    Or where you have to pixel-hunt the ice stalagmite which you have to shoot down.

    Oh, the wounds are still deep…..

  18. Trooper6 says:

    I really liked Still Life. The Characters of Gus and Victoria were very well acted and it was put together well. The artwork of the killer was beautiful and there were many great thrilling moments. I also enjoyed the puzzles. It’s attention to historical detail and some historically based in jokes were great. A friend of mine, who is a furniture freak, died laughing when Gus dismisses this one particular chair, which was new in period and ended up being really famous. I didn’t know that about the chair, and really appreciated it.

    There were some problems though. The person doing the voice acting for the black cop was so offensive…I just had to pretend he wasn’t in the game. And their recording engineer left much to be desired. The voices all sounded like they were coming from a recording booth and not in a cathedral or streets of Prague…Sound Desiner guy? Use some reverb and some wild sound next time.

    All that said…I am stoaked beyond belief for Still Life 2.

  19. Thundara says:

    Between Staying Alive: < - > Still Life 2, the character, who reminded me of Chell with a touch of the Alyx look, and the boat (Borealis), I could have sworn this was a Half Life 2 mod continuing the Portal story until I actually read the article…

  20. Noc says:

    It may still be a clever code!

    RPS is totally hiding something from us.

  21. Ted says:

    I haven’t played this, but having read your review, you obviously came in to the game determined to hate and — surprise, surprise — you did. If you hate adventure games, why review them? Your review was a huge outlier relative to every other review by every other major source.

  22. Tims says:

    I loved Still Life, but probably I’m not normal. I loved how absurd some of the puzzles were. I wrote a php script to solve the combination lock type puzzle on the chest in the attic. Maybe there was some clue to it somewhere, but I was so pleased to do it myself. If I found a box like that in real life, the first thing I’d do is write a program to figure out how to open.

    That was one of the most memorable things I’ve done in a game. I admit that towards the end it had a dubious plot and a non ending, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the whole way through.

    It’s one of those games I can still remember the feeling of playing it. Unlike that game.. that I can’t remember at all anymore. Yeah all those ones.

    It’s also one of the few games I’ve finished. Even if it didn’t really end.

  23. Dean says:

    Ted: You are from Just Adventure and I claim my five pounds.

  24. Duncan says:

    You are so right on about Still Life there John! It had some potential but completely undone by an unfinished plot, terrible puzzles and the worst talking animations I have ever seen. If you are going to have detailed models you better make sure your animation in on the same level. Otherwise you would be better off cutting some of the details down on the models because the gap in quality between model and animation is distracting.

    I frequent alot of adventure games sites and forums and Still Life is often brought up as a shining example of a modern adventure game. I think alot of adventure game fans are losing their marbles and so despearate for a professional level game that they are willing to accept a game that would have been mediocre at best, graphics aside, if it was released during the heyday of Monkey Island’s, Beneath a Steel Sky’s etc.

    I sincerely hope the second game is good but I’m not buying it until I see your review John!

  25. Terr says:

    I liked Still Life as well.

    Sure, some of the puzzles were too hard for an adventure game (thank you, GameFAQs) and the ‘avoid the security bots’ part at the end made me very, very, very angry, but it was worth it.

    The grim atmosphere and the intertwining of the past and the present were brilliant. The cutscenes got my blood pumping, which is rare for a zombie like me, and the ending was memorable.

    I hope the give the story a respectable ending, not some X-Files-ish “Oh, the killer was Victoria’s grandfather whose traumatic experience happend to give him the gift of eternal life” thingy. Yes, I’m looking at you MICROÏDS.

  26. Ted says:

    I’m not from Just Adventure. John’s review was just a ridiculous piece of crap. If you’re attacking an adventure game for being an adventure game, you don’t need to be reviewing the genre. His review was about as sensible as some jackass complaining about an FPS game that the genre needs to evolve beyond shooting things. Or panning a Civilization game for being turn based. Adventure game fans are not exactly desperate for new product either, as his asinine comments about adventure game sites giving the game high reviews said. Look at any comprehensive new release list. Aside from casuals, there are more adventure games being produced for the PC than any other genre. And there’s a reason for this — I guarantee you the median adventure game sells better than the median game in just about any other genre (averages for other genres are obviously much higher because of a handful of blockbusters offset a mass of failures).

  27. John Walker says:

    Hi Ted!

    I’m not *entirely* convinced you’ve read my review of Still Life, since it spends over half the time celebrating everything that’s good about the game, then going on to explain what was wrong, and how the score was so dramatically dropped because it doesn’t have an ending.

    So let’s go ahead and assume you’ve not read, or remembered, the review in PC Gamer (it’s the only place I’ve reviewed it). Now let’s factor in that you’ve not played the game. I really hope you’re not too upset that based on this, I’m not going to be taking your opinion of me all too seriously.

    By the way, to clear your other point up, criticising an adventure game for having bad puzzles, poor acting, terrible dialogue, horrible graphics, or in this case, no ending, is not the same as not liking adventure games. In fact, if you think it through, it’s more that I’m not liking bad adventure games and wishing they were good.

    When I play good adventure games I give them positive reviews! I’m a maverick.

    Get back to me when you’ve a) played the game, and b) read my review. Thanks!

  28. Trooper6 says:

    Oh, just wanted to add that the music in Still Life was excellent.

  29. Tims says:

    I know this is an old post, but I want to add, that while I liked the game a lot. I agree it was a poor game :)

  30. tick says:

    John
    It’s late, but Ted was speaking about your review in Eurogamer, not in PCG UK.

  31. Brian says:

    My wife and I had a good time playing Still Life together. The puzzles were ridiculous but the story, dialogue, and presentation made up for it. The ambiguous ending pissed me off after all that effort but that ambiguity kind of grew on me.

    The game doesn’t need a sequel. But I’ll buy it.

  32. Thomas Ascher says:

    I’ve come upon this thread late, but glad I finally found it because someone, somewhere needed to point out that the original Still Life was unfinished. Clearly, at the end, they simply took story boards, preliminary sketches and pasted them together to finish the game. Hearing that they ran out of money helped clarify for me what happened. So while the first half of the game, the part they finished, was stunning in appearance and involvement, it was ultimately a disappointment worthy of a rant! I too will wait patiently for reviews and user reaction to Still Life II before buying! And, thank you John for your initial review and beginning this thread. It needed writing!