If there’s one genre that sticks to the saying “everything old is new again”, it’s the adventure genre, with “old-school” graphics and point and click gameplay regarded as features more than anything. Not that I’m against that, mind you – I’m a firm fan of adventure games and believe that some of the greatest video game narratives have been told through the genre. This certainly was the case with Yesterday, which remains one of my top picks of the year (and probably my favourite adventure game of all time). Now Wadjet Eye Games (Puzzle Bots, Gemini Rue), another big player in the adventure game stakes, have released their latest title, Resonance. Resonance leans far more towards the “old-school” style compared to say, Telltale Games or Pendulo Studios, but has a couple of neat little mechanics that sets it apart from most games of the sort.
Before we get into the meat of the gameplay, where would we be without the story? Unsurprisingly, given the calibre of Wadjet Eye’s previous titles, we have an engaging storyline that is well-grounded in reality and a cast of compelling characters on our hands. These characters find themselves drawn together when a particle physicist named Dr. Morales suffers a strange demise. With the knowledge that the technology he was researching could present a great danger to the world, they set out to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. The four main characters – Ed, Dr. Morales’ lab assistant; Bennett, a cop; Ray, an investigative journalist; and Anna, Dr. Morales’ niece – are each playable throughout the course of the game.
The good ol’ ‘see what this character was up to at this time while the others were doing something else’ device rears its head here, but most other times, you’ll be controlling two or more of the characters simultaneously. Thankfully, this amounts to much more than just having someone follow you and act as a pack mule, as Resonance contains a stack of puzzles that you only be solved with a bit of teamwork. I must confess that I felt sheepish when I realised that a lot of them were really quite straightforward; I just needed the characters in the right place at the right time. On a solo level as well, the puzzles are clever and simple without being too obvious. This being an adventure game, you’ll soon notice that some of them can only be solved with the help of certain items. In some cases, the item you’re after won’t be in your inventory – they’ll be in another character’s inventory. Having a group of characters means being able to trade items with one another (with a couple of exceptions, such as Bennett’s credit card). There are two other ways to solve tricky situations, which for me were both the highlights and my main sources of frustration with Resonance: long-term memory and short-term memory.
Both long-term memory and short-term memory act as information sources that can be pulled up when you need them. Long-term memory is information that sticks with you throughout the whole game and is reserved for key moments, either during the game’s events or during the characters’ pasts. You can tap into LTMs to call exactly what a character said in a particular scene, which brings up a little window that plays the flashback in its full glory. Short-term memory is something you have control over, as you can drag various aspects of the game world directly into your memory bank (as displayed in the game toolbar). There doesn’t seem to be a limit to how much you can hold, but I kept overwriting various memories as soon as I realised they were useless. STMs can then be dragged into dialogue and used as a new line of conversation with another character. However, there seem to be very specific instances where LTM and STM can actually be used – the system definitely isn’t as flexible as it’s made out to be and results in way too much backtracking for it to be convenient. Nevertheless, a number of the puzzles do implement it well. For example, there was one moment that infuriated me to no end and I tried using everything in my inventory in every way I could think of (even going so far to consider shooting a janitor for an item!). As it turns out, all I needed to do was to tell him about a door, which I had to store in my STM. Oops. Without spoiling too much, there are also a few Silent Hill-esque ‘nightmare’ sequences, which I found extremely enjoyable (but that’s just the horror junkie talking).
It’s obvious that a lot of attention has been put into Resonance, and I’m not just talking about the admittedly impressive retro graphics. There are things that you won’t find unless you really go looking, such as having a thorough look through Ray’s smartphone. You can see he receives emails from one of those ‘learn a word a day’ services, so proceeds to use the word ‘pulchritudinous’ in his dialogue a couple of times in one scene, much to the confusion of a receptionist. Speaking of dialogue, the game is fully voiced by some great talent, including Logan Cunningham, the Bastion narrator himself.
I wouldn’t say Resonance was a groundbreaking adventure game, but it certainly pulls out all the stops in regards to the story and the attention to detail. The long-term/short-term memory and simultaneous character situations are really clever ideas, although I think the former could have been implemented better to give players a less irritating experience. Regardless, I enjoyed Resonance. It doesn’t top Yesterday as my adventure game pick of the year, but it’s a great game nevertheless.