|Still Life (which just went gold) is as contradictory as its name would imply. It takes players to the past and the present, of course, but it also contradicts in that it's an adventure game heavy on character rather than puzzles; it's at once gruesome and tender; it's laughably over-the-top noir but disturbingly graphic. Will that seduce the adventure junkies who make up The Adventure Company's primary audience? After playing the preview, I'm still not sure. |
The game begins in present-day (well, 2004) Chicago during one of those dark, snowbound winters that those of us live who live here survive rather than endure. When there's that much snow on the ground, you know nobody real is gonna traipse around in a miniskirt. And yet here she is, our heroine Victoria McPherson, an FBI profiler who doesn't seem to feel the chill despite wearing just a leather miniskirt and black sweater. If her attire has clued you in to the fact that Victoria is hard-boiled as Max Payne, you get a cookie.
And yet Max was in a cartoon world, whereas Victoria's is just brutal. I know they say it's hard for cops to cope sometimes, but some of our heroine's jokes seem out of place when you're staring at a woman who has been stripped, beaten, drowned and then stabbed.
See, that modus operandi has Victoria on the trail of a serial killer, the kind who likes to write messages in blood and then clean them, knowing the investigators' luminol will eventually reveal said messages. Victoria has just finished processing one such crime scene (in a sequence that thrilled the forensic science geek in me) and decides to clear her mind by spending an evening with Dad. Thing is, Dad has unlocked grandfather's old chest in the attic. And wouldn't you know it? Gramps is Gus McPherson, private eye and star of the earlier game Post Mortem.
Even better, Victoria finds a diary that details Gus's hunt for a killer whose m.o. is the same as the case she's working. Is it a copycat? An immortal villain? Play and find out.
Still Life is going to thrill your typical adventure fan. It's got the static backdrops and bizarre puzzles (why would Gus use such a complicated lock on his chest?) that the genre embraces. Thankfully, I only encountered one real hunt-the-pixel frustration during the preview. That said, I would've loved a better chance to explore these environments. Instead, every NPC is vital to the plot, which is rigidly linear.
That's a shame, because the environments are gorgeous. Water ripples; fog rolls. I wanted to get lost in these backdrops. Even the voice acting is pretty good, though the subtitling was grammatically awful. There's also a weird dialogue system that I hope gets removed: Advancing a conversation at times relies on a mouse click, but you don't get any dialogue options. Better to just let the audio proceed unimpeded.
I do wish there had been more CSI sequences in the preview, but I hold out hope they'll be available in the final version. Still Life may adhere strictly to the conventions of the adventure-game genre, but its plot and settings will win the admiration of adventure fans.