By John Walker on April 22nd, 2009 at 12:00 am.
There’s controversy surrounding the 2004 Microids adventure Still Life. Because controversially some people think it wasn’t astonishingly disappointing. Not disappointing in the way most crazypants Euro adventures are, but disappointing in the sense that it was a murder mystery game that didn’t have an ending. It just stopped. When they ran out of money. The ludicrous claim was put on the game’s website that, ahhhh, it was the beginning of an ARG you see. Which it wasn’t. And Microids very soon dropped dead. Well now they’re back! And Still Life 2 is coming soon, with a demo out. And it’s astonishingly disappointing. But in an interesting twist, it is disappointing in the way most crazypants Euro adventures are.
The original game always receives enormous amounts of defence. Although when you have a sliding block puzzle to operate a crane, you’re not on strong grounds. However, beyond the whole not having an ending thing, it had some reasonable production and ideas. It was more frustrating because it was close to success. This glimpse of the follow-up does not suggest the same. I think the simplest thing to do is make a list of why this demo is so poor:
- It begins with interminable cutscenes, going on and on and on barely referencing the previous game and then leaping into the middle of another serial killer’s reign of terror, our FBI hero, Victoria McPherson, investigating, and receiving an awful lot of phone calls.
- The killer’s second line (in one of two voices he appears to possess) is, “Welcome to my humble abode.”
- In his other voice he says, “You’re the one who dubbed me the East Coast Killer! It’s time you find out what’s behind those meaningless words.”
- The inventory screen made me feel squeamish, with its peculiar river-of-shit moving background.
- Some pixel-sized hotspots for objects aren’t correctly lined up with their targets.
- You can’t pick up a mattress if you have a nail file in your pocket.
- When trying to escape a front yard surrounded by an electrified fence, my character not only refused to scale the offending boundary with the two-storey-high ladder she found, but also wouldn’t even acknowledge either of the insulated pliers in a toolbox.
The demo has you play as a reporter who has been covering the murders while openly mocking McPherson on air. She’s been captured by the serial killer and you’re tasked with escaping. Doing this is relatively elementary if you’ve suffered enough mediocre adventure games. But they’ve found a way to make it more irritating. The traditional inventory is replaced with an RPG-style limited number of inventory spaces. Or “cases” as they’re insanely called. You have sixteen of these, and a nail file takes up one, while a mattress or large ladder requires all sixteen. So while this is clearly an attempt to make some logical version of adventure gaming’s more usual magical pockets, it ends up being far more daft. In order to climb out the window you have to put a nail file in a wardrobe to get the mattress. Want to move a ladder? First put your mobile phone in a skip. Lordy lawks.
And rather brilliantly when it’s over the screen declares: