Resonance: A throwback for the ages

Genres within gaming can see parallels to food at a feast. One dish may find itself more appetizing to one individual’s taste than another, but there is always that temptation to taste what is outside of your comfort zone. For many, adventure games fall into this category. The slow, methodical gameplay and often deep storylines are seen as a crux in a world where military shooters reign king and action-heavy MMOs grasp the attention of millions. On occasion, however, one dish comes along that makes us want to extend our palette and taste outside of familiarity.

Those who are concerned with the connotation of adventure games being overly difficult can find solace in this fact: Resonance gently ramps up the challenge and slowly introduces gameplay mechanics at a speed which allows you to fully grasp what the game is capable off before letting you go on your own. You initially play as one of four characters, one at a time, before being granted the ability to seamlessly transition between two characters in the same scene in later stages. Once the prologue is complete the world is your oyster: All four characters are at your disposal at all times, and each are necessary to advance the plot as they may hold a bit of information that the others do not possess.

This is one subway ride that will change his life forever

While the Adventure Game Studio is limited to a 4 by 3 screen ration and is confined to the paltry resolution of 640×480, it won’t hinder your experience by any means. The stunningly detailed pixel art allows you to quickly forget that you are playing on a “dated technology”, and the particle effects blend in seamlessly with the backgrounds to provide lifelike environments. The scene which stands out in my mind most is when one of your characters is riding on a subway, where the screen is gently bobbing up and down to match the motions of the train, in addition to others subway cars quickly passing by in the distance.

As with Wadjet Eye‘s past titles, the voice acting in Resonance is spot-on. Gamers familiar with other titles within the developer’s catalog will recognize a number of the actors, as many of them make a return. The most notable actor however, is perhaps Logan Cunningham, whose breakout performance as the narrator in 2011′s Bastion made his distinct voice instantly recognizable in the gaming world.

The dialogue rarely feels forced, and their random interactions due to inactivity on my part had me frequently sitting back to witness their responses to one another. The roles each of the four characters play are dissimilar, and their respective backgrounds present useful talents to make use of. Whether you spend your time as the worn down, veteran police officer, or the young female doctor who just lost a close relative, the characters share in their sorrows together and you can’t help but care for them.

That’s not to say that Resonance is without its flaws. Like most adventure games, Resonance tends to suffer from the occasionally convoluted puzzle or hidden item. In particular, immediately after splitting into four playable characters there is an item you’ll need to collect in order to advance. This required item blends in seamlessly with the background, making it nigh-impossible to spot out. For scenes such as this I suggest scrolling your mouse across the screen in order to detect elements which can be collected.

After playing through countless adventure games, I have to admit that Broken Sword does it best when it comes to offering hints and solving puzzles, and wish more games followed suit. Should you find yourself in a difficult situation, simply select the help screen and it will continue to offer detailed tips, or even solve the puzzle for you completely.

Additionally, you can opt to leave the commentary tracks on during the game, which allow you to select nodes marked throughout each scene, revealing pertinent facts behind the development process. These range from the hardships faced while casting voice actors, to bloopers from the voice actors themselves. I find myself playing through every Wadjet Eye Games title with these on, and I wish more developers would do the same.

Despite its few shortcomings, I found Resonance to be the most enjoyable gaming experience I’ve had this year. Adventure games require a special kind of patience, but those who are willing to take things slow will be rewarded with an exceptional story consisting of engaging dialogue, charismatic characters, and impressive use of an aging engine. Fans of adventure games have something to celebrate this year, and Resonance proves that there is still innovation to be made within this often stagnate genre.

Rating: ★★★★☆

An adventure game that welcomes audiences both old and new.

Resonance was provided for review by Wadjet Eye Games. You can download a free demo of Resonance here. It is available at GoG.com, Steam, or directly from Wadjet Eye for $9.99.

 

 

 

Posted on by Dave Voyles in PC, PC Reviews, Reviews

About Dave Voyles

Dave is located in Philadelphia, and works as a Tech Evangelist at Microsoft. He's coordinated the Indie Games Uprisings on Xbox Live, wrote the UnrealScript Game Programming Cookbook, Made an XBLIG game, and is currently doing JS / HTML5 dev for browser base games. You can follow him on Twitter, at @DaveVoyles