The adventure genre is a type of game that has been taking a backseat to the mass of brainless shooters and other titles that are being produced at a dime per dozen lately. Thankfully, every now and then comes a few talented people who still care and remember the adventure fans out there, The Adventure Company is one of the latter and with the cooperation of developer MicroÃ¯ds comes one of the most involving, disturbing and gripping title in recent memory. Still Life parallels between the events of Post Mortem, which was more or less of a success, while introducing a new heroine into the mix, the granddaughter of Gus McPherson from Post Mortem, Victoria McPherson.
Still Life begins with a stunning yet shocking cutscene as we are briefly shown the main characters of the game, along with a strangely clad man sporting a mask and dragging the lifeless body of a young woman. Players will immediately know they are going to be in for quite a treat as the game progresses.
Following the initial cutscene, players are introduced to the gameâ€™s protagonist, an FBI agent by the name of Victoria McPherson and daughter to Chicagoâ€™s District Attorney. With her desk residing in Chicago as well, she is working late one snowy, Christmas evening, profiling a serial killer who preys on innocent women in an extremely brutal fashion. The phone rings, a fifth body has been discovered and Victoriaâ€™s aid is required.
An old, decrepit building towers high into the night as Victoria enters and discovers the crime scene, which is spread out across the entire apartment. Players will be able to get a feel of what Still Life is all about: dark, gritty and gruesome crime scenes blended into an awesome story line. A long night of evidence collecting and examination of a mutilated corpse eventually take their toll upon Victoria, as she retires to her fatherâ€™s household for a small, late night Christmas celebration. A small conversation and exchange of presents ensues and players are presented with the opportunity to explore the humble abode, but the attic is where Victoria will eventually wind up. Her grandfatherâ€™s chest is discovered in a dark corner and is locked for safe measure. Once opened, players will get a chance to sift through the age-old files present at their disposition. As it turns out, Gus McPherson was a self-proclaimed private eye who was mixed up in a case eerily resembling that of which his granddaughter is currently investigatingâ€¦
Following the discovery of the case files, Victoria will have random flashbacks to the case Gus was investigating, and this is where players will be given the chance to control the second character of the game. The game fluctuates between a gloomy, modern day Chicago and a beautiful 1930s era Prague, where both characters attempt to resolve their gruesome cases. Both contain the same suspiciously similar types of circumstances and victims: women who degrade themselves to survive and who society would not miss or remember any time soon.
From this point on, Still Life becomes extremely addictive and intriguing, I will not say anymore as I wouldnâ€™t want to give any details and wish keep the entire experience as unspoiled as possible. This leads me to my next point, which I will try to keep brief, the characters in the game, Victoria and Gus, will interact with an extensive amount of them. Each one feels different and unique due to the great characterization and effort placed into creating each person. Seeing as how Still Life is an adventure title, the point-and-click method of navigation is present, but with a twist, the camera follows Victoria from a third-person perspective, allowing for a much more fluent control of the character. Moving around is as simple as pointing and clicking, which is true to its genre and thanks in part to the intuitive mouse cursor, which changes form and lets players know if there is something worth examining into closer detail.
Using the left mouse button will allow players to move around, while using the right button will open up the gameâ€™s inventory. Here is where the items that have been collected during the course of the game wind up. The use of these objects is extremely limited and can only be employed at specific areas during the game, but they get the job done! The inventory screen also links to more useful features, such as a save/load system, a log of all the dialog exchanged during the course of the game and many other features.
When engaging in conversations with other characters, players are given the choice to use both sides of the mouse. Using the left mouse button will resort in Victoria or Gus asking much more profession and mission oriented questions, as opposed to using the right mouse button, which takes a much more personal approach to questioning. The latter allow players to get a deeper and involved look into the back-story and feelings of the characters. The conversation system permits a much more refreshing approach to the old and stale dialog trees that plague so many of the other adventure titles out there.
An adventure game wouldnâ€™t be worthy of such a title without a bunch of intricate puzzles, but fear not, Still Life has more than its fair share of them. Although some are quite complex and might require the help of a walkthrough for inexperienced players, all of them feel fresh, original and blend into the story perfectly, never feeling out of place like certain other games.
Graphically speaking, Still Life is a powerhouse. Employing the same engine as Syberia 2, the 2D pre-rendered environments are breathtaking, yet dark and gloomy all at once. The modern day recreation of Chicago feels like a dank and dismal city and helps convey the atmosphere in which Still Life tries to achieve. The early century Prague looks amazing as well. The models appear very life-like and smooth, although Victoria does have a strange taste in clothing for someone on the job and some of the characters seem very stiff, almost as if they were constipated, but this is just a personal matter of opinion. Still Life also sports some of the best cutscenes in memory. These videos help capture the more action oriented sequences of the game and accomplishes this task masterfully. The use of dynamic lighting and many more top quality effects are visible and make Still Life a graphical tour-de-force.
In the audio department, things hold up equally well for the most part. The voice acting in Still Life is rather excellent, even though some of the dialog does seem extremely cheesy and forced, as if it couldnâ€™t come naturally. The language in this title is completely uncensored as well, which adds a realistic and gritty touch to the game. The music is top-notch and fits perfectly into place with the environments. Dark and haunting ambient tracks will play while you walk the streets of Prague as Gus and a higher tempo, techno-inspired set of tunes make Chicago feel more like its real life counter-part.
Overall, Still Life may be one of the better games of this year. This title will have you hooked from the beginning until the end, and the open-ended conclusion will leave things up to your imagination to figure out. Although it does feel very short, and some of the dialog seems quite tacky, these minor flaws are nothing that should deter fans of the genre from trying it out. Even for newcomers to the adventure platform, Still Life manages to keep things interesting from start to finish with just the right mix of action, puzzle solving and dialog. Itâ€™s a definite recommendation, the saddest part is that I know with the few point-and-click titles that will be released this coming year, none will be able to compare.