Publisher: xii Games
Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, 1.8 GHz Pentium IV or better CPU, 512 MB RAM (1 GB for Vista/Win 7), 256 MB graphics card, 1GB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Not rated
Release date: Available now
Resonance is a puzzle/adventure game that revolves around a murder mystery, dangerous technology, and the memories and motivations of its four characters. When a scientist is murdered in his lab after making paranoid ramblings, it’s up to you to figure out who did it, why, and what’s in the secret vault. Utilizing some innovating game elements, Resonance is more interesting than its modest price tag implies.
Like most adventure games, Resonance involves a ton of puzzles that need solving, but unlike more tired releases in this genre, it shakes things up a little bit. Once you reach a certain point in the plot, you end up controlling four different characters, each with their own inventories, memories and abilities. The more difficult puzzles generally require you to coordinate between two or more of your characters; there are times where you’re required to jump around to different characters, using their inventories, memories and specialized abilities to accomplish all of your tasks.
But the innovation in Resonance isn’t in the four-character framework. I keep using the word “memories” because the game has a multi-format inventory system. Each character has a physical inventory, a short-term memory and a long-term memory. The physical inventory is just what you think it is: physical objects currently being held by that person. The long-term memory acts as a journal for that character. Important things that happen in the game are recorded here so you can review them later. The short-term memory is the most interesting part. It’s used to “record” items in the game world that cannot be physically removed from their locations. For example, when trying to shut off the water pouring from the pipes in front of the lab, you can put the shut-off valve in your short-term memory. Now that you “remember” it, you can carry that object with you and, thanks to the nice interface in the conversation system, drop it into conversation at any time. Instead of trying to open conversation trees or trying to spell/use the correct name for an object in conversation, you can just drop your memory into the conversation and see if the person you are talking to has anything useful to say about it. This makes interaction with other characters much more interesting (there are some nifty side discussions you can open up this way) and less frustrating. You can also drop long-term memories or physical objects into conversations, which is especially useful when two of your four characters are interacting. And since developer xii Games took the time to put in tons of things that can be remembered, this mechanic is not so much a gimmick as it is a vital factor in solving puzzles.
Resonance borrows heavily from old-school 1990s adventure games, but it’s a bit more adult in its plot development and characters. I don’t mean that it has sexual content; I mean the four protagonists are wrestling with issues that are less “hey, let’s go on an adventure!” and more “I’ve got some baggage from my past and this whole murder thing isn’t helping.” Some sequences are clearly the work of a writer who wants you to feel empathy towards the characters. There are moments when you navigate through a character’s nightmares, while others have you relive moments in the past when abuse and neglect occurred. And because the plot is mystery-driven, the game drops enough hints and red herrings throughout so that you begin to suspect treachery from even the characters you control. The 256-color graphics and low resolution can make the game look like another cheesy ’90s knockoff, but the writing demonstrates this isn’t just some throwaway adventure.
However, when I say 256-color graphics, I really mean it. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I don’t think this is a big deal. However, the game’s blocky graphics come through all the more clearly on a big monitor. While it’s not a strike in my book, those who love their graphics might want to look at videos and screenshots before making the decision to purchase. Aside from that, I wish there was an easier way to lasso all four characters to move them around the city. If you want to move more than one character at a time, you have to enter into a conversation with each character you want to take with you and tell them to walk with you. I would have really preferred a simpler approach involving the mouse.
But even these flaws are fairly minor. As far as I’m concerned, Resonance is the reason indie games exist. You don’t need a $10 million budget, a staff of a hundred and a selling price of $69.99 to have a good game. Sometimes a great experience can be had for $9.99. This is one of those times.