Still Life Preview
by Alex D.
With the apparent rise and comeback of the Adventure genre, The Adventure Company is one company to thank. One of their latest titles that will hit the store shelves in the near future is “Still Life”. Today we get to try developer Microid's upcoming offering to the point-and-click category.
Tying in loosely with the events in Post Mortem, Still Life lets gamers play the role of high-heeled, quick-witted FBI agent Victoria McPherson, granddaughter to Post Mortem’s protagonist, Gus McPherson. Taking place in both modern day Chicago and 1920s Prague, players will find themselves controlling both Gus and Victoria through out the duration of the game.
Still Life begins with a straightforward plot. Victoria is following the case of a mysterious serial killer preying on young women who appears to be getting bolder with every murder. During the investigation of the fifth murder in the series, she begins to discover clues along the lines of secret messages on walls using the victims’ blood and other more subtle hints. While on a much-needed break, Victoria pays a visit to her father on his birthday and digs up her grandfather’s case files from the attic. Eerily enough, the cases depict the same bizarre murders she is currently investigating. From this point on in the game, Victoria begins to have erratic flashbacks to Gus’ own investigation and allows players to periodically take charge of the hero as he embarks on his own search for answers in the 1920s-era Prague.
The game’s control scheme is brilliant and yet so simple to become accustomed to. Still Life offers the choice of the keyboard or mouse to control your character. Even though you essentially use two different buttons through out the entirety of the game, it’s nice to have the option to use the keyboard if you get tired of clicking. Still Life is played from a 3rd person perspective with a point-and-click style control method. The game revolves around a fair amount of walking and pixel hunting as you search for clues that will help you crack the case open on the enigmatic killer. It does a nice job of seamlessly capturing the emotions and mental state of the characters. People Victoria interacts with all pull off a good job at seeming realistic. Whether just hanging out or getting worked up about something, everyone reacts the way you would expect in the situation you find him or her in. Having received an “M” rating, you can count on plenty of raw swearing and gore too! Character interaction is very simple. During conversations, the right mouse button goes for a more social, kinder questioning or response as opposed to the left mouse button making Victoria reply with a more professional and work related retort.
Still Life’s interface goes hand in hand with its control scheme, simple and effective. When utilizing the mouse, the right mouse button accesses the inventory. From there, players can combine, examine or use objects stored. More useful functions can be found aside from the inventory. Information related to the task at hand, dialog between characters, a rapid saving and loading function are among some of the things. Items that have been picked up are stored in Victoria’s inventory, most, if not everything has a use but can only be employed in very specific areas where a grey hand appears in the overhead left corner of the screen. In the rare case, you can also combine items like a camera and film to be able to take pictures of a crime scene.
Still Life is powered by Syberia 2’s graphics engine so players are in for a real treat. Do not expect the same look though, Still Life is a much darker and disturbing than Syberia and reminiscent of the atmosphere and style of the movie “Se7en”. The shadowy, depressing mood of the game’s environment is admirably captured and portrayed thanks to the powerful visuals displayed through out the game. The cutscenes present through the game are a great addition. They convey the action sequences and minor plot advancements flawlessly and are a treat to view. The details placed into the characters pays off well also. Movement and lip-synching are achieved with perfection but repetitive gestures seem to occur frequently during conversations with other characters, which is the only downside.
While adventure games certainly don’t take the crown for over the top, brainless action sequences, they are well known for deep and engaging story lines. Still Life falls into the latter category without any debate. The title’s exceptional plot and challenging puzzles are fantastic on their own, but it’s the characters and the interaction that really shines. This game sports some of the best voice work in any point-and-click style genre and when combined together, will have you hooked and guessing until the very end. If Still Life finishes off the way it started, it may very well turn out to be one of the most absorbing adventure title since Syberia. I look forward to seeing Microids future offerings in the genre and can only hope we will see games as good as Still Life resurrect the point-and-click style of games.
You can find a small gameplay video here.