EVIDENCE: The Last Ritual Review (PC)

Released at the tail end of last year Evidence: The Last Ritual picks up where Missing: Since January concluded. The Phoenix is still at large, people are going missing or showing up dead and you have been brought in to assist in the investigation. Evidence is presented in much the same way Missing was, bringing together a unique combination in the sleuthing path that draws the player in and hold them there. Add to this game play graphics and sound that emphasize the creepiness of the situation and you have a game thatís sure to pleaseÖor terrify.

Early reveal as to the identity of the master mind Certainly not a DaVinci

For me I leaned several things about Evidence from the get go. I learned first that I have abundant moments of being a big olí scardey cat mixed with enough curiosity that I just couldnít keep the game turned off, even though I found that I had to take a break or two to reground myself away from things that go bump in the night. The experience reminded me of playing the first Resident Evil all night and jumping at shadows all the way home. For the faint of heart do not play this game at night in a big empty house with the lights turned off Ė not unless youíre trying to creep yourself out, in which case, be my guest.

As you move through the world of Evidence the story is told through puzzles that, once solved, yield clues through videotapes. Each tape brings you closer to finding the Phoenix and those heís kidnapped or left parts of behind including a brother/sister pair and Jack Lorski, who became a familiar face in Missing: Since January. While itís not completely necessary to have played the first game it certainly doesnít hurt. There are several webpages that are devoted to telling the story of the Phoenix so a little searching can also quickly bring one upto date.

Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is not a comfort Riddle me this

Speaking of searching in playing Evidence youíll find yourself doing a lot of research and footwork on your own. This is perhaps the most unique aspect of Evidence as play takes place both in the world of the game where you interact with puzzles and information displayed on the screen, but the game then breaches to the real world Ė or at least the Internet and email part of it Ė with clues being sent to your email address and many puzzles being solved through googling, mapquesting and utilizing other Internet resources to come to your conclusion. This gameplay style is, honestly, both fascinating and a bit frustrating. The fascinating aspect is how much this method draws the player into the game. To get email at your own account that you use outside of the game world makes it feel somehow more real as does the tracking of information on the same browser that you use for checking the daily news. The frustrating part is that some of the clues are still very difficult to find, even in the gold mine that is the Net, due to the sheer amount of sorting you need to do and the fact that some of the pages may suffer from link death or being down for one reason or another. The self contained game doesnít have to rely on the net connection behaving, and if you arenít online thereís very little progress you can make in the game.

The puzzles, which are the heart of Evidence, range in difficult from easy Ė circling letters for example - to please-beat-me-to-death-with-my-own-keyboard-and-mouse difficult. This is a difference from some of the more arcade style bits that were found in the first game and I think better for it. There are a lot of online helps from other players and on the main Evidence website. Getting involved with the community of players is definitely a good way to go when you need help and encouragement when youíre struggling. There were points where I was so stumped that I had to rely on online clues and walk-throughs to get the job done, which was less than satisfying in the long run. I wanted to solve all the clues myself, but at a certain point the time it took wasnít as much fun as moving forward.

The graphics and sound elements of Evidence are both very nice for adding to the creepiness factor of the game, with a few scenes being downright disturbing. This is definitely not a game for kids either mentally or emotionally. Graphics were often flickering with a but of the jerky movements that have worked well in several horror series in other medias and serve well here. The videos are well acted and help to move the story along nicely. The music is understated and at times almost seems to disappear only to come right back at you in a way that can chill the spine or send you jumping out of your chair.

Sometimes it takes a committee Iím glad they think I can decrypt it

All in all a game definitely worth the play though Iím not sure that the same tricks that made the game alluring the first time through are flexible enough to allow for very much replability. If you enjoy a good horror mystery thereís definitely a lot of meat here to dig your teeth into provided you have the patience for the places that move a bit more slowly, or require a lot more dig. I think Iíll go play something warm and fuzzy now to chase away the chill.

Top Gaming Moment:
Conquering each puzzle is definitely a thrill as well as unwinding the answers to what really happened to Jack, Jessica and Adrian.

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