Friday, November 29, 2013


Feels kinda odd discussing Resonance in relation to other adventure games. The whole point-and-click adventure setup, antiquated as it is, has been relegated to small productions and independent developers, often new to the business. This invites a certain tolerance for low-quality graphics, creative writing of uneven quality, and various nonsensical gimmicks meant to spice up the decades-old routine of visually scanning an image for clues. It invites a certain tolerance from players for... well, amateurishness.

Resonance is not amateurish, but neither does it convey the sort of endearing personality which can elevate these 2D, pixellated 90s throwbacks over glitzier, big-budget genres.
It's written at the level of a good British murder mystery, with believable characters and a plausible, coherent story. Suspense and foreshadowing feature in adequate doses to get their point across. The voice acting is... passable, though it suffers from a "teleprompter" feel. The premise is just sufficiently "Sci" to make for good "Fi" and the ending doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately the whole thing feels somewhat perfunctory. It's far from dull, and paradoxically it may be the careful, professional balance between story elements which turns Resonance's plot into a zero-sum game but unlike other good adventure titles, no artistic element truly grabbed me - nothing, from setting and premise to plot to characters, to sprites and sounds, made much of an impression. These are forgettable people doing forgettable things in a forgettable place.

Resonance excels, however, as a puzzle-solving game. Through visual, text, memory and even social (as you control up to four characters at once, each with a subtly different agenda) Resonance runs almost the complete gamut of puzzle-solving while remaining pleasantly self-contained, unlike, say TSW and its constant wikipedia-crawling for obscure trivia. While this could've easily made Resonance feel like "Wechsler interactive" the reward per time investment for each puzzle was carefully managed to avoid boredom or frustration. Crutches are implemented for those of us too lame to feel our way through a wooden box (yes, the puzzle solving includes an actual puzzle-box) and other characters will gladly drop you a hint now and then. Logic wins the day here. Players accustomed to simply scanning the screen for interactable elements will be disappointed at a very large number of red herrings. In a refreshing departure from most of its competitors, Resonance's gameplay hinges on building logical causality, not what might be called the spirit of observation but is more frequently sheer dumb luck.

A good example of just how Resonance rises above its genre would be the ending. I had no trouble figuring out how to "MacGyver" my way to the big finish... but it turned out to be the bad ending. Not just bad, but the ending I myself find deeply offensive. So I kept trying, unsuccessfully, to end on a good note, and finally had to give up and learn online that getting the good ending was not only a matter of making different choices, but of using a social rather than mechanistic, instrumental approach. I'm still gonna gripe that it was a dirty trick to play on us shuttered hermits who are most likely to buy such a product, but it's certainly food for thought on building meaningful puzzle-based gameplay.

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