Back in the mid-80s to early-90s, adventure/puzzle games (non-Tomb Raider-style) were one of the most popular types of PC games. From King’s Quest to Roger Wilco to the very naughty Leisure Suit Larry, these games had made a big mark in computer gaming history. Today they have all but died out.
With the old-style adventure/puzzle games few and far between (especially quality ones), Ubi Soft and Arxel Tribe have recently brought us a brand new game for the genre, named “Alfred Hitchcock – The Final Cut”. They’re taking a bold step into a genre that hasn’t proved very popular with the general public lately. Can they pull it off and try to prove that there is life left in this type of game? Well, there definitely still is life left, but it looks like it might be starving for air.
The game pits you as Joseph Shamely, an early 1900s-style detective who was hired by Robert Martin-Jones. Robert is a film producer who is making a mystery movie inspired by his love for Alfred Hitchcock stories. Ironically, while he’s making the movie he stumbles upon a mystery of his own. The entire crew is missing. He sends his niece out to fetch you, interrupting the beginning of your long-awaited vacation. Now it’s up to you to pick apart the whole mess and figure out what’s really happening here.
Gameplay is pretty much a mixed bag. Let’s start with the controls. The basic controls are pretty simple—you use the arrow keys to move, the shift key to run, and the spacebar for actions. Therein lies the problem, however. Most people today have been babied for years by point-and-click interfaces and easy-to-use controllers. Now they’ll have to keep jumping from the keyboard to the mouse, all while being frustrated by the poor control. It would’ve been much easier to simply click where you want to move, rather than holding right to turn around, and then running to it. This is only a minor problem, but it is one among many.
The camera is also an annoyingly frustrating part of the game. It is a completely stationary camera that switches whenever you enter a new section or area (much like that of Resident Evil’s camera system). This is fine and all until the camera switches on you two or three times in a matter of seconds. It becomes very frustrating when all you want to do is simply walk down the sidewalk, but the camera is needlessly switching to the mansion’s porch view every half a second. Again, it’s a minor problem, but these things start to add up.
Now on to the meat of the game—the puzzles. These are obviously the most important part of the gameplay, and luckily they are presented better than the controls and the camera. If you’ve ever played the old adventure/puzzle games, then you basically already know what this aspect of gameplay is like. You simply explore the surrounding areas, take down hints and clues, find artifacts that could be needed later, and try to solve those pesky puzzles. The puzzles were well laid out and most of them seemed pretty logical, but for the most part they weren’t at all tough. One of the first puzzles you’re presented with is one where you must try and unlock a series of drawers by correctly arranging the drawers’ labels. It was a bit too easy, with pairs of labels that were much too obvious (one match was “North by” and “Northwest”).
Nothing spectacular on the graphics-side of things, either. The pre-rendered backgrounds are probably the better part of the graphics. They had that certain touch to them that helps create an eerie atmosphere, which is what the developers were shooting for. But they could’ve been better. Much of the time they weren’t really that convincing, and I could pretty easily tell that the 3D character models didn’t really fit the background.
So on to the character models. There were a fair amount of polygons present in the character models, which obviously makes for a better looking game, but there could’ve been better texturing. Even from far away, the textures seemed pretty low-res and blurry by today’s standards. With the pre-rendered backgrounds and environments, the developers had a lot of potential left to put towards some prettier looking graphics, but it looks as if they simply didn’t take advantage of it.
Animations were pretty basic, too. Of course, the backgrounds were completely motionless since they were pre-rendered, so that leaves animations to the character models and the full-motion video (FMV) sequences. Sadly, these were also a bit drab. They wouldn’t have been half-bad if there were a larger number of animations, but there seemed to be, for the most part, only a basic few for every character. The FMV sequences were barely of par, too. They reminded me of the quality found in the old PSX games, but not that of today’s games. Not that this really effects the game’s overall worth, but it didn’t really add much to the visual appeal.
I confess the graphics are within the bounds of being acceptable, but that’s just about it. Visually, there was too little to really captivate me after seeing so many other visually stunning games this year.
Sounds / Music:
So maybe you’re thinking the sound will be better and make up for some of the smaller problems. Sorry to say it, but the sound is frankly dull and uninspired. Whether you realize it or not, music helps create a great deal of the atmosphere found in “creepy” games like this. It would’ve been better had they taken after the eerie music and background noise in other games, like in Resident Evil. Instead, the music seems to be almost the same sequence of beats and tones played over and over again (talk about repetition). Sometimes there are some ambient environmental sounds in place of the music, and to be honest I’d rather listen to these instead, as it was easily one of the higher points in the background sound.
Sound effects are also pretty dull. It only consists of the occasional action you perform, such as the opening of a door or the operation of a VCR. There are no clocks ticking, no cars driving by; it seemed to be just plain empty. And on top of that, Robert’s niece (the one sent to fetch you) is mute, so she definitely won’t be spicing up the empty sound effects anytime soon. I’ll admit I’m being a little harsh, but this isn’t the early 90s. People are expecting more, and I think it’s what they should be getting.
So in the end, the sound isn’t going to be this game’s saving grace, either. Being barely average, they simply aren’t the high quality, realistic types of sounds you’d expect from a game today.
In the game’s defense, graphics and sound aren’t what makes a game worth it in the end. But despite that, the game just seemed like it was rushed too fast and polished too little. Minor cosmetic problems, as well as a couple bigger gameplay problems, plagued the game from beginning to end. With the sickening state of this type of game, it definitely isn’t going to bring any sort of relief to disgruntled fans of the genre. Given a little polishing up here and there, this mediocre game could’ve been good, if not great. I’d recommend that you stay away from this game unless you are a die-hard fan of the genre (and even then be pretty weary). Hitchcock fans will find it more intriguing than the rest of us, but it still won’t amount to a great game.