Fourplay: Pointing And Clicking With Resonance

By Richard Cobbett on April 6th, 2012 at 3:30 pm.

Gasp! A Wadjet Eye game whose advert isn't just two people standing next to each other? Nope! Resonance has four!
Being an adventure fan isn’t always easy. Only the other week, I had to endure Pendulo Studios’ Yesterday – a game of dark mystery and devilry whose general quality is probably best summed up by this tweet. Luckily, for every low, there’s a high, and while I’ve only played the opening act of Wadjet Eye/xii’s upcoming Resonance, it’s more than washed the bad taste out of my mouth. Here’s a few reasons for your mouse finger to look forward to it…

Virtual Stripper 4?

I’ve actually been looking forward to this one for a long time, ever since playing a very early demo entered into the IGF. The basic premise is a scientist has made one of those Very Bad Discoveries beloved of SF geniuses, and as the game starts, the world is screwed. Time then rolls back 60 hours before the catastrophe, where three seemingly unrelated lives are about to be intertwined in a hunt for the the truth… or even a way to save the world from its fate.

That’s about all I’m going to say about the plot, which happily drops you into the middle of the story and slowly drip-feeds you the pieces. Your first encounter with one called Ray for instance is him disguised as a technician, breaking into a hospital to research a story he’s clearly been working on for a long time. You’re expected to hit the ground running, getting the backstory from the e-mails and memos on his phone. Another is Detective Bennet, a cop on stakeout in a very bad part of town, who wastes little time demonstrating his tried-and-tested MacGuyver approach to crime-solving, while you try and work out where the heck you know his voice from.

(The obvious answer: It’s Nolan North! No, wait. It’s Logan Cunningham, whose awesome gravelly voice work played such a huge part in making Bastion such a memorable game.)

Doesn't work. I've tried, endeavoured, experimented, had a crack, had a shot, had a stab, tried my hand, undertaken and even ventured that approach. The result? I've played a lot of adventure games on my own...

Whichever one is taking the lead – and it’s not long before you get to control two simultaneously, with puzzles like joining forces to clamber up to a window – Resonance immediately stands out as special. Take the art. It’s retro in the sense of being 2D and pixelated, yes, but in absolutely no way is it simple or lazy. Every environment is lushly detailed and beautifully painted, with lots of cinematic touches like depth-of-field blurs for reveals, lighting effects behind a kicked open door, neon flickering, or smoke billowing in the background of a burning lab. It looks absolutely terrific – easily one of the prettiest looking AGS games anyone’s made so far.

The really enjoyable attention to detail is in the dialogue and details though. Glance at Ray’s phone for instance and you’ll see that he has a Word of the Day app – today’s being ‘pulchritudinous’. He slips it into at least two dialogues in his very first scene. That same scene features a wonderful throwaway bit about online dating, not to mention a chance for one of the meanest acts in adventuring since Bernard pushed Nurse Edna down the stairs. It’s fun writing; serious, but with a sense of life. I look forward to getting to know these characters better.

Tried this one too. Works better when you're not in the shrubbery.

As far as quibbles and complaints go, the only pressing one is the interface. Mostly, it’s standard point-and-click. The extra gimmick this time though is that memories can be used as inventory objects. That’s fine in theory, but for two things – you can only hold three memories at a time, and you have to manually drag them and swap them every time you see something new.

Say for example that you need to get a key to a maintenance door from a janitor outside a building. (“For example that you need to get a key to a maintenance door from a janitor outside a building!) Normally, you’d walk up to it, your character would go “It’s locked, I need a key from the janitor,” and the next time you spoke to said janitor, you’d have an option to ask him about it. Here, if you try that, you’ll just end up with your goldfish brained character freezing up like someone just dropped an entire glacier down their pants. Still, better than Cole Phelps…

This is a bit of a nuisance, especially when you have to track back specifically to collect the memory that you need to unlock the conversation that the character should know full well about. It’s not helped by being somewhat inconsistent. The characters will bring up some things on their own, just not most of them. At least a couple of times I was stuck because I’d forgotten this extra step, and at no point would I not have traded it in for a basic notepad full of clues.

So far, there haven’t been enough relevant objects on screen to have to particularly treat the memory screen as a tactical thing, and honestly, I don’t get the point of this interface shift in the first place. Maybe it comes into its own later on in the adventure. Hope so. It’s hardly a deal-breaker either way though, just… well… kinda weird. And not the catching a loved one peanut-buttering their feet kind of weird. The other kind of weird. Adventure game interface weird.

My mutant power is being able to spot a dream sequence at 50 paces. Yet oddly the X-Men still haven't gotten back to me about my application. And I know Kieron Gillen and everything!

The full version of Resonance is out some time in May, and I can’t wait to play the rest of it – even with the weird memory thing. Hopefully it’ll be on Steam, but if not, it’ll be over here. If you’re an indie adventure fan, keep an eye out for it – it’s looking pretty special.

(Oh, and if you haven’t seen Jane Jensen’s Kickstarter yet, it’s worth a look. It’s more than a little overwritten and would be best just asking for pledges for a specific game instead of all this happy-clappy communal nonsense, but the promise of a new Jensen adventure should at least compensate for some of that if you’re willing to play the Kickstarter roulette game in the first place. At the very least, there’s no justice if it’s beaten by a mere Larry remake.)

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51 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Yachmenev says:

    Eh?

    “happy-clappy communal nonsense”

    So now it´s wrong to involve the players? I´m a bit suprised to such attitude on RPS, which usually is a site know for being very supportive and encouraging. But I´m sure you have your reasons for being like that.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      No. But pitching a company on Kickstarter and talking about year-long subs for this and that and drawing farming analogies and opening up the game up to a vote* instead of just focusing on selling one game was a mistake – as I think can be seen by the limited success they’ve had so far. I’ve sent them money because I want the game to succeed and I wouldn’t have mentioned it otherwise, but they made a lot of mis-steps in putting out their store-front and selling their game.

      (Recurring communal stuff is fine later on or in other contexts, but it’s not what Kickstarter is intended for or works well as – it’s there for an initial flood of cash to get started. A kickstart, if you will. That model has its place, but its place isn’t there. And a vote sounds good, until you realise that you’re asking people to take up to a 2/3 risk that the game they want will be funded, which adds a mental sticking point that wouldn’t have been there if they’d just gone “The game’s called Moebius and it’s from Jane Jensen. Want a new Jane Jensen game? Splendid!”)

      I’m also hoping the Tex Murphy guys don’t find they’ve left it too late, what with their own Kickstarter not starting until next month, when the iron could be very cold indeed.

      • Premium User Badge

        Yachmenev says:

        Of course the project could have had a more focused goal and more clear presentation, but your comment seems to suggest it´s the idea of community involved development that´s wrong, instead of the place of it like you now seem to mean. It really doesn´t help a project that could see us get two new Jane Jensen adventure games, which would be fantastic news for fans of the genre.

      • Demiath says:

        In principle, I see no reason why Kickstarter couldn’t be about more complex propositions than the charming but also rather shameless pandering to nostalgia we’ve seen so far (“hey, remember me and that game I made 25 years ago at a completely different stage of my life? Well, I’ve got an idea…”).

        From the narrow perspective of maximizing donations it certainly makes a lot of sense to sell just a single concrete game idea, but given Jensen’s relatively low funding threshold ($300k with additional funds from other sources) I don’t see her approach as fundamentally deviating from Cobbett’s own definition of what the “kickstarting” process is supposedly all about.

        • Zeewolf says:

          There’s nothing _wrong_ with it. It’s just confusing. And when you’re asking for people’s money, confusing them is not really such a great idea.

          I contributed too, after having a think about it (really not interested in Anglophile, but the other two concepts are good). And I really hope it succeeds. If only because it’s Jane Jensen. I actually like her earlier games more than I like Tim Schafer’s stuff.

        • Merus says:

          I think that shameless pandering to nostalgia is somewhat inevitable; the Kickstarter model requires projects to give backers reasons to trust them, and as reasons go, ‘I made this game years ago that you loved and I’d like to make one just like it’ is a pretty good one. I think the game industry has established by now that for all of the bleating about new and innovative games, what sells is the tried and true, so it’s no surprise that Kickstarter, which is directly funded by customers, reflects that.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Sadly, I’ve seen many people who do since it was revealed.

        • snarky says:

          A good example of a Kickstarter adventure game project that didn’t trade on nostalgia is… Resonance (you know, the game this article is about?). Vince Twelve ran a Kickstarter campaign for it two and a half years ago and raised a cool $2k. Not a whole lot of money, but it certainly seems to have been well spent.

      • Zeewolf says:

        “I’m also hoping the Tex Murphy guys don’t find they’ve left it too late, what with their own Kickstarter not starting until next month, when the iron could be very cold indeed.”

        I’m worried about that too. I also fear it’s not a project that will get a lot of attention in the press. I hope you’ll make sure it’s covered properly here at least… to me, a new Tex Murphy is essentially the game Kickstarter was made for. I really, really hope it’ll succeed.

        • malkav11 says:

          For my part, if the Tex Murphy kickstarter were to happen this month, I would have to pass, as I’ve already backed Wasteland 2, Banner Saga, Shadowrun Returns, Jane Jensen and even the LSL one (though not for nearly as much), along with a couple of tabletop RPG-related projects and the one space sim whose name I forget. I’m about at my limit for the month, if not actually over it. Next month, though…

      • jimboton says:

        “Oh, and if you haven’t seen Jane Jensen’s Kickstarter yet, it’s worth a look. It’s more than a little overwritten and would be best just asking for pledges for a specific game instead of all this happy-clappy communal nonsense, but the promise of a new Jensen adventure should at least compensate for some of that if you’re willing to play the Kickstarter roulette game in the first place.”

        Agreed. The good thing is that she seems to have reached the same conclusion, her latest update says they’ll have the vote next weekend so people can know which game they’re supporting. She has also stated which kind of gameplay we can expect from any adventure to come out of this, light casual friendly puzzling a la Grey Matter or GK style complex problems. The short answer to this apparently is ‘both’ (choice at the beginning).

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Sometimes the tools we humans invent can have new purposes invented for them.

    • Tacroy says:

      Pitching a concrete vision is one thing (like “we will make Shadowrun”, or even “we will make a crowdsourced hardcore tactical shooter” though that was barely acceptable) and it works well. Pitching a floofy we’ll make three or four games, we don’t really know what they’ll be like that much, but they’ll be adventure games and vaguely have these themes is another entirely, and it just doesn’t work that great.

      It’s like Steve Jobs’ approach to design – you should mercilessly edit out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary to showing people the vision you have. This one is just too unfocused, and tries to evoke too many things at once. You want people to read your Kickstarter page and be fired up about one thing, about “hell yes Wasteland 2!”, or “hell yes Tim Schafer!”. I mean, when you read that page, what do you come away with? “Hell yes community supported games”? “Hell yes one of three games”?

      It’s like Takedown before they redid their page to give it focus. It needs to convey one thing, not a bunch of unrelated things.

    • Acorino says:

      For anyone who is on the fence about this Jane Jensen Kickstarter (because of the possibility of Anglophile Adventure, maybe?): On April 14-15th there will be a vote for the game concept. So if you want to have a say about that: pledge now. Otherwise, just wait and see if the result will be a concept that tickles your fancy and that you might be more inclined to pledge for! :)

  2. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    Yeah, as a proper adventure game fan, I’m prepared to hate every new adventure coming out but WEG are a godsend and at least partially restored my faith in the genre. I already pre-ordered this game in my head.
    That said, I don’t get that tweet but after having played Runaway, I’d say everyone who played any of their games after that is a fool or gets paid for it. Or both.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Paid. Definitely paid.

      • Acorino says:

        I started playing The Next BIG Thing last week, it looked nice and got good, if not spectacular recommendations. So, what do you think about it?
        The only other Pendulo game I played before was Runaway 1, and while I liked it at the time of the adventure drought, it wasn’t all that great looking back, just barely passable.
        But The Next BIG Thing I enjoyed a lot so far. It’s witty, beautiful, and the puzzles are fair and make cartoony sense. Very polished, too. Only played two chapters so far.
        Sad to hear that Yesterday isn’t so good. I hoped that Pendula Studios would really outdo themselves with this one. Hrm…

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        I’m glad I played Yesterday before reading this post, because it may have indirectly made me think “this is a dumb game.”
        I enjoyed it quite a bit. It got really stupid by the end, but it was quick and fun and there aren’t enough beautiful looking P&C adventures around. I’m not going to say graphics are important, but when I want to play on the big screen instead of watching a movie, my wife demands it.

        Yesterday was neat and simple. Nice twisting plot and all, ultimately dumb, but it’s still a point and click. I enjoyed it more than games like Mass Effect 3 or Kingdoms of Amalur. It did have some uniqueness. Plus it is pretty, and that’s worth more than most RPSers will admit.

    • webwielder says:

      Runaway is such an awful fucking game. Between that and Syberia, I learned the hard way of using Adventuregamers.com as a source of recommendations.

      • Lukasz says:

        wait…
        are you calling syberia a shitty game?

        cause I quite enjoyed it. it was not TLJ but i found it to be pretty good.

        • Premium User Badge

          lhzr says:

          TLJ has a lot of terrible puzzles, so it being called good or bad depends on how important the puzzles are for someone, versus the story. I gave up on it at some point, because having to alt-tab to a walkthrough every couple of minutes kinda gets me out of the mood..

          • Lukasz says:

            hehe. well. i completely suck at puzzles myself yet enjoy adventure games strongly. so when playing both Syberia and TLJ i had a massive blast.

            TLJ was better cause of the setting but Syberia was really fun. the surreal atmosphere, the how mellow it was and that it was so very personal adventure… not saving your life, the world, or doing something epic.

            so it being grouped with Runaway (which i heard is really really crap) is a bit strange.

          • Premium User Badge

            lhzr says:

            Hey, don’t get me wrong, I thought the atmosphere/writing/story (everything besides the puzzles) were excellent in both TLJ and Syberia. I just didn’t enjoy the puzzles very much (same with the more recent Whispered World).

            And yes, they most certainly don’t deserve to be thrown in the crapper together with Runaway, that’s something reserved for the Ankh series (and perhaps a few others on the same level of bleh-ness, that I don’t remember right now).

          • malkav11 says:

            Syberia was explicitly pitched to me as being the next TLJ (not an actual sequel or anything, but that calibre and type of game). It’s beautiful and has a few nice imaginative touches, but it’s nothing like on the same level. Underwritten, light on interaction, and unspectacular puzzle design. And the sequel isn’t even as good as that.

          • Ragnar says:

            I’m surprised to hear you say that about TLJ, as I generally suck at puzzles, but was able to get through TLJ with only looking up a walkthrough 3 times (once at the beginning with the ring, once for a lightbulb that I couldn’t find (only pixel hunt in the game) and once when I didn’t realize the policeman wasn’t complete without a hat). As compared to, say, Grim Fandango, where I needed a walkthrough for much of parts 1 and 2, or Mechinarium.

            Then again, it was the story that had me glued to TLJ, so the best things about its puzzles is that they rarely stood in the way of being able to enjoy the story (the only puzzles I remember from that game are the three that tripped me up).

      • Premium User Badge

        Yachmenev says:

        Runaway is not good no, but Syberia 1 is a really good game. I actually enjoyed it more than The Longest Journey. A refreshingly different setting, fun contraption based puzzles, good pacing and a lovel artstyle.

      • webwielder says:

        My distaste for Syberia can be summed up by the line most frequently spoken by the protagonist as I clicked seemingly anywhere: “No need to go down there.” The lack of interactivity was startling. Also, the writing has that weird not-quite-translated-into-English-properly vibe that kills the atmosphere for me. By no means as bad as Runaway, though. That game literally makes me angry thinking about it.

        • Lukasz says:

          heh. i played it in polish fully voiced so that complain about English never ever affected me.

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      I’m always amazed by the people that keep playing Pendulo’s stuff. Everything is awful about them, except for the graphics.

      Also that twitted pic was so bad that my liver started hurting. Thanks for that, Richard.

      • Skabooga says:

        That picture made me spit coffee all over my keyboard. And I wasn’t even drinking coffee.

      • thelongshot says:

        Course, I only hear about this after paying for their collection of games in the last Steam sale…

      • Acorino says:

        The Next BIG Thing is pretty good, actually. Not a masterpiece, but fans of the genre will like it. It’s pretty conventional, but Pendulo Studios really understood the conventions with this one. Quite the improvement compared to Runaway 1!

    • qptain Nemo says:

      OR just capable to enjoy nice things with a lot of love, cleverness and effort put into them despite some flaws that they of course have without going into twitchy fits of snobbish rage. Y’know.

  3. LionsPhil says:

    Oh-ho, hiding tooltips on all of the images, eh? You should know that the adventure gaming veterans know to scrub their cursors over every pixel of the page.

  4. longleggedbeastie says:

    I’m surprised you don’t have the actual article about Jensen’s kickstarter though. Especially since “At the very least, there’s no justice if it’s beaten by a mere Larry remake”. Which you gave publicity to. Blimey, that’s fair :<<<

    • Zeewolf says:

      Hopefully there will be an excuse to post about it later. Maybe an interview with Jane herself? I’d read that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Yachmenev says:

      There just seems to be something about her kickstarter that rubs them the wrong way. I would have understood it if the workload kept them from writing about it, but the response to the progress of other kickstarters, like Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun, seems lightning fast, almost. :P

      I´m guessing that if they write it by now, it probably will focus more on kickstarter fatigue and the different model she´s using, instead of being encouraging, so the question is if it actually would helpt it at all.

  5. MondSemmel says:

    Did anyone else look at the last picture in this article and instantly imagine a version of The Binding of Isaac (with reversed genders)?

  6. Sivart13 says:

    I want to play this game now. Why would you post an article about it before the game is out? I can’t play this game now!

    I could just as well have read this article in several months when the game is out and played it then. Game journalism is madness!

  7. Wolvaroo says:

    EDIT: Derp, replied to the wrong article.

    Carry on.

  8. DickSocrates says:

    In the top picture, the woman looks like she has but one, centrally located breast.

  9. Fizics says:

    I saw the picture on the front page and for a moment I thought it was another Left 4 Dead.

  10. Angel Dust says:

    I’m so glad this is actually getting released. I followed it’s early development (interestingly they actually used Kickstarter to raise some $2000 midway through development) but then it kinda went quiet and I was worried that it had been abandoned.

    Now I just have to wait until May!

  11. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Damn. For some reason I thought that game was already out, and I could buy it right now. That would have been a nice way to spend the weekend. Oh well. Playing it in May will be good too.