Here at BrainLazy we are suckers for a good adventure game. It is the reason one of our few audio interviews was with the legendary Al Lowe, and it is the reason we were excited to be given an opportunity to review Resonance, a game that from the looks of it could have been released in the era of the Sierra classics.
The graphics of Resonance are far more about style than wow-factor. The resolution is tiny by modern standards, and all of the graphics are VGA-level pixel art. To compare it to the polygonal, vector, or hand-painted graphics of current games would be pointless, however. The graphics are clearly designed to evoke the old-school flare of the golden age of adventure games. In this way, Resonance is extremely successful. Environments are rendered with great care and detail, as is necessary for a game where any given cluster of pixels might be an invaluable tool or clue. The character designs are distinctive enough, and though the animations are limited, they are sufficient. Nothing about the graphics are impressive, but they are undeniably nostalgic.
A point worth mentioning that would irritate some and delight others, this game does not suffer from the clear separation of interactive/background objects that so many similar games do. On one hand, this means that the visuals are seamless. On the other, it means that you will do an awful lot of scanning the screen searching for things that will make your pointer highlight. More than once I found myself stymied by the inability to find an item that I knew had to be there, but I’d yet to find the dozen pixels that would let me grab it. It is a unique sort of frustration and triumph that could turn off some players, but is an essential part of the adventure game formula.
In many ways, Resonance is the quintessential point-and-click adventure game. You maintain an inventory, both of items that you start with and those that you’ve found along the way. These items are collected, combined, and applied to various challenges to progress. A point counter lets you know how far you’ve progressed, and when something you’ve done has moved you forward. In a move that I will perpetually compare to Day of The Tentacle, you are given control of multiple characters. Each has abilities and items that make them uniquely capable of solving certain puzzles. Character is a police officer with access and clearance for the police administration building, for example, while another is a nurse with access to the morgue and the pharmaceutical dispenser.
In one of the more unique aspects of the gameplay, in addition to an inventory, each character has got a short term and long term memory. The long term memory contains events that you’ve witnessed, usually containing clues and objectives. The short term memory is used to store conversation topics. You drag things from the environment over into the your short term memory, then drop them onto the dialogue box to attempt to talk about them. While this is clever, it took a little bit of getting used to. In most games of this sort, seeing something would be enough to add a new choice to a dialogue tree. As such, I frequently would examine a broken window, for example, then go back to talk about it, only to realize that I hadn’t “remembered” it. Also, the “interact” and “examine” buttons were separate mouse buttons, which meant I frequently tried to take a sign off the wall rather than just reading it. Once I got the hang of it, though, it worked well.
An adventure game is nothing without decent puzzles, and Resonance did not disappoint. One puzzle, centering around decryption, made me feel like an absolute genius when I solved it. Other puzzles are inventive but tedious. A few times over the course of the game, I knew exactly what I had to do, but the solution wasn’t simply “apply item,” they involved one character distracting an NPC, while another made precise adjustments, then the first character had to take another action to trigger the solution. If the adjustments were wrong, you had to go back through the distraction and adjustment process. It took me many iterations, which is my fault, but still left me with the “okay, I get it, let’s move on, please.”
While the game occasionally punishes you for not paying attention—the location of Saul’s wrench is a puzzle that requires you to listen closely to his very long-winded story—what it does not do is punish you with a “must reload” scenario. Any puzzle that would kill a character or render the game unwinnable if it failed instead triggers a “rewind” effect that brings you to the beginning of the sequence. This provides the developers with the ability to introduce a puzzle with a trial and error solution in a timed sequence. You can make your mistakes and run out of time, then do things correctly the next time. Somehow the devs precisely calibrated the solution time with the time available, such that you just barely finish in time, once you know what to do. I cannot stress how effective this is at building a frantic feeling of panic when a door is being beaten down and you need to figure out how to get away from the thing trying to bash through.
Occasionally there comes a point when you are presented with an entirely different game mode, be it a sliding puzzle, a maze, or some text entry. It does a good job of breaking up the monotony, and taught me several important life lessons. For instance, did you know that navigating a maze that periodically rotates is frickin’ hard? It is! There is also a moral choice aspect to the game, but we’ll get into more of that in the Story section.
The music of the game is moody, setting the proper atmosphere for the various settings. (I particularly liked the elevator version of the music that was being played in the hospital.) The voice work was decent, but not stellar. Any character interactions were voiced, but most of the non-plot relevant things like examinations were text only.
Adventure games tend to have a heavier story and character focus than most games, and this one did not disappoint. The video game equivalent of a cold-open gave me the indication that I was going to be dealing with a fairly standard cast of characters getting into a crazy, mixed up lot. There was a scientist who was nervous talking to a girl on the train, a wannabe film noire police officer with a by-the-book partner, and a mildly inept “investigative journalist” who was really a blogger. Sure, there was a phone call indicating another scientist was nervous about one of his creations, but overall I was expecting something more or less upbeat and screwball. Then I got to the little girl’s section. It was a bit of a mind-screw, with a monster beating at a progressively more damaged door while you tried desperately to find an adequate hiding place. As the story progressed, it got more tangled and complex (in a good way). Some twists and reveals were predictable, but many were most definitely not. There came a point, about two thirds of the way through the game, that I suddenly wanted to start over from the start to see how much groundwork had really gone into one particular swerve.
From time to time, you are presented with choices. Having only played through the game once, it is not clear how much each choice influenced the outcome, but I can tell you that the choices are not always as cut and dried as the “harvest or free the little sister”-style choices. One character in particular has a disturbing back story that manages to assign a very deep and profound meaning to something as simple as a one peso coin.
It is rare for me to play a game not only because I enjoy the gameplay, but also because I want to know what happens next. Resonance definitely kept me intrigued right up to the final click.
The graphics would be enough to snare a certain generation of gamer, and the puzzles are sufficient to make the game worthwhile, but what really shines about Resonance is the depth and quality of the plot.
8.8 / 10: Resonance is an old-style point-and-click adventure game with inventive puzzles and a complex and compelling plot worthy of many replays.