By John Walker on July 8th, 2011 at 9:30 am.
After Daedalic Entertainment’s flawed but appealing The Whispered World, it seemed there was hope for translations from this developer. They even hired an established UK writer (Steve Ince) to redraft the script into English English, adding in new jokes to make it work in this location. From the demo of A New Beginning, no such thing has taken place, making what is already an extremely clunky game feel like a parody.
This is in another part due to how incredibly sincere the Oh No Environment script comes across. Time travellers from the future, two weeks before a solar flare is to wipe out the remains of humanity, head back to our very own day to tell us it’s time to start changing our polluting ways. So they set their time clocks for 2050 only to find out – OMG! – that’s too late! The Earth will already be beyond repair by 2050! That’s soon! Are you taking notice of the message?!
The demo gives you a sizeable chunk that establishes this story. You begin playing a retired older gentleman, grumbling around his summer house by the lake, clearly soon after he lost his wife. His name, oddly, is Bent. Bent is trying to fix his motor, once he’s found where he drunkenly hid the key for his basement of course. Having a key for your own house would be too easy. Then he’s interrupted by a time traveller, Fay, who tells him the tale of her and her team’s failed trip to 2050, whereupon we start playing in flashback (flashforwardback?) as her instead. And in what could be a nice gimmick, Bent offers cranky disbelieving commentary on the events as the two chat about things in the future, their faces appearing in inserts over the main image.
Sadly what you actually get is an extremely scrappy experience of scanning screens for interactive objects and clicking on them all, interspersed with some terrible translations, idiotically read out verbatim by the cast. Every other sentence is intoned incorrectly, or worse, plain broken English, and so often it’s something any actor worth his vocal cords would have questioned in the studio. But then the man offering the voice of Bent seemingly hasn’t even heard of Sisyphus to be able to take a stab at pronouncing “Sisyphean”.
The game also features that strange adventure trope of offering you choices that the character is shocked or confused by. “Why would I want to do that?” Er, because when I clicked it was one of the options. I love the idea that they, and so very many adventure characters over the years, tacitly acknowledge that their every decision is made based on the suggestions of some god-like player, but will sometimes refuse to obey the unseen force. It stands out here since the options they react to seem so incredible benign.
It certainly doesn’t inspire me to pick up the full game. Because as nice as the animations and hand-painted scenes definitely are (apart from the more minor characters, whose comic book faces look like doodles in the back of someone’s maths exercise book), the lack of care in translation makes it all feel so dismissive. It also doesn’t help that no matter how sympathetic one may be with the environmentalist message, it’s hard not to turn into Jeremy Clarkson in response to its being delivered in such an overtly patronising way.
Should you want to prove me wrong, you can get the 1GB demo from here. It gives you about 45 minutes of the game, depending upon how slowly you solve the puzzles I suppose.