The Xbox may seem like an odd console for old-school adventure games, but it supports some decent titles from the genre. In March we were hit with Myst IV Revelation
, and April brought us the action adventure thrills of Obscure
. This month we are treated to a straight up adventure game with puzzle elements called Still Life
. The game is a gory tale of murder that combines straightforward puzzle elements with some mundane fetch quests.
While other adventure titles have started to include more action elements to broaden their audience, Still Life is a throwback to the PC classics like King's Quest. The game was developed by Microids who is also responsible for the Syberia series as well as Post Mortem on the PC. Still Life actually takes place in the Post Mortem universe and shares some of the same characters however the story stands alone.
Features: HDTV: 720p In-game Dolby 5.1 Surround Live Aware
The game stars Victoria McPherson, a tough as nails FBI agent who is currently investigation a series of grisly murders that are highlighted in the opening cinema. The pre-rendered movies are exciting and stand in stark contrast to the slow pacing of the gameplay. The editing is quick and steals a few visual tricks from movies like Se7en and The Ring. Like these films, the game doesn't hold back in its depiction of graphic violence. Victoria's case centers on a string of murdered whores so don't be surprised when the game presents an extreme close up of a desecrated naked corpse.
The script follows suit with a main character that uses the vernacular of a hardened cop, and never misses an opportunity to throw in a four letter word. If the above comments haven't done the trick, allow me to reiterate: this is a mature title and should not be played by the kiddies.
The hook to this tale is that the game switches between Victoria and a flashback to her Grandfather's investigation of a similar case 75 years ago. In a display of good design sense, when playing in the flashback scenes the menus remain the same but with an aged, weathered look. For example, Victoria has an electronic city map in her all-terrain vehicle, which is replaced by her Grandfather's yellowed street map when the perspective changes.
The controls are straightforward and a decent translation from the point and click movement setup in most PC adventure games. Players navigate the main character using the left analog stick and a series of icons indicate if something in the environment is interactive. For example, the crime scene is a dilapidated old apartment building and a small magnifying glass will appear when Victoria approaches a dirty wall or a pile of scrap metal. An item menu is used to display an inventory where items can be equipped, combined or examined. In the first scenario, players are instructed to collect evidence from the scene of a crime. Victoria thinks out loud to herself to nudge players along the path to becoming a super sleuth. In this way the tutorial is seamlessly grafted into the story.
Victoria is able to speak with surrounding NPCs and her responses are divided between personal, and business related topics, depending on which trigger is pressed. In most situations these two conversation options yield slightly different replies, but have no affect on the gameplay. If there were more characters to speak with, this could have created an interesting mechanic that would force players to measure their style of banter. As is, conversations can just be cycled through.
Like any good adventure game there are a number of puzzles spread throughout the world of Still Life. Some of them simply involve finding an item to combine with something in the environment while others have players arranging a series of levers or breaking a code. Clues can always be found in the surrounding area and with a little perseverance the answers are ultimately revealed.
The camera remains fixed in Still Life and usually displays the detailed environments from a cinematic angle that gives players a bird's eye view of the area. The pre-rendered sets are well composed and contain plenty of detail but there aren't enough of them to immerse players in an environment. Character design is a bit exaggerated with some cartoon-like elements that do not suit the serious subject matter. Also, the characters move painfully slow, and the run animation is a bit goofy.
The opening cinema is accompanied by a lovely orchestral score but during gameplay there is little else besides small environmental sounds. The quality of the voice acting varies from character to character, but Victoria possesses a delivery that really hurts the game. She is quick to make a joke or flippant remark regarding her surroundings which is fine for interoffice banter at the bureau, but feels extremely out of place at the scene of a grisly crime. This isn't as much the fault of the actress as it is the result of an awkward script.
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