Resonance Preview (PC)

With the likes of Wadjet Eye and XII Games keeping the point-and-click adventure scene alive with lovingly-crafted and slickly-produced indie releases, it’s no surprise that Resonance is shaping up to be something special. Judging from this pre-release version, any pre-existing feelings of genre stagnation will be slowly stripped away with some smart new gameplay mechanics and excellent vocal work, both of which aided by a genuinely intriguing storyline and piecemeal structure. Other high-profile adventure games might be dominating the radar at the moment, but if the final product is as impressive as this, it’d be a crime if Resonance went unnoticed.

As its main hook, the storyline setup benefits from a sparse introduction. A brief movie sets the tone with some heavily-pixellated news footage depicting catastrophic events occurring around the world, and then a swift rewind to 60 hours prior is where the tale begins in earnest. Of course there’s a root to all that madness, and it’s as you unravel the intertwining stories of several different protagonists that light is shed onto the science-fiction underpinnings. Somebody did something bad - or was about to at the least - and your investigations as a lab technician, police officer and reporter are what will drive Resonance to its conclusion.

The art style is fantastic

The main bulk of the story (at least in the portion we played through) is broken up into small chunks, with each forming a scene in the overall narrative. There are very few moments of exposition offered up front, with XII keen to deliver their story through environmental detail and what would inevitably be filler material in other titles. Hacking into a mainframe or reading the personal files of a desk clerk might give you a glimpse into the machinations of a particular organisation for example (rather than a cutscene), or playing through a dream sequence might give you a bit of insight into the psyche of one of your key protagonists.

It’s extremely compelling stuff, with the drip-feed of information pressing you to explore your surroundings and search for as much detail as you can. I’m not normally one for perusing email messages or rummaging through virtual data pads in any videogame, but the characters in Resonance had me hooked, and I soon found myself examining every available item and soaking up as much atmosphere as I could. It helps that the writing is witty and delivers on both intrigue and humour, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Rogue police detective Bennett is perhaps the best example of that balance.

In terms of pure mechanics, you might be disappointed to learn that Resonance is pretty much as basic as adventure games come, with a left-click to interact and right-click to examine as your only means of interaction (aside from a few keystrokes). However, the introduction of the concepts of short-term and long-term memory overhauls the inventory and puzzling in a manner that’s intriguing.

Some of the puzzles are straighforward

Both of those ideas effectively work as separate inventory slots, and they form the basis of much of the brain-bending. Long-term memories are triggered by key moments or by examining objects, and can be recalled at any time as conversation triggers or just as refreshers to bring you back to speed with prior developments. Short-term memory works in a similar fashion, allowing you to drag environmental objects into your memory banks, and then bring them up in conversations or to solve puzzles. You might need to remind a receptionist that she needs to leave, as an example, so you can drag a clock into your short-term memory and then bring up the time during conversation.

Even though the demo is a limited impression of those concepts, they seem to function in an interesting fashion, although - somewhat inevitably - an element of backtracking is required to make the most of them. There are only three short-term memory slots to utilise as well, likely meaning some element of trial-and-error will be necessary to get the right combinations as you progress through each scene. Conversations can be a little bizarrely stunted as a result, although when a solution clicks into place, the memory slots absolutely come into their own.

Perhaps a part of the reason for that layer of additional complexity might lie in the fact that Resonance also includes scenes in which your character can actually fail or die. Rather than simply reset you back to the beginning of that section, points are deducted from a meter that only fills when key events occur or specific objects are interacted with or manipulated, meaning that you’ll likely need to try several different solutions before you hit on the right one. Once the meter runs out, it’s game over.

Dialogue is excellent

Although only a few of those fail states occurred during the gameplay slice that we sampled (and they were generally easy to spot), their introduction might be frustrating for those of you wanting a traditional slow-paced experience. It’s not that any of them were particularly difficult, but they did have the capacity to force the replaying of events several times over, which may or may not be met with a kind reaction from traditionalists.

Even with that potential for mishap however, it’s absolutely vital to stress that Resonance is one of the best adventure prospects in years. The writing is excellent and the vocal work convincingly delivered, and perhaps most importantly of all, the characters are genuinely compelling. Whatever happens in the world of Kickstarter campaigns and big budget releases, if you like the genre then you owe it to yourself to check this out on release. We can’t wait.

Best Game Moment: Figuring out your short-term memory.

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By hunter612 (SI Core) on May 06, 2012
Looking forward to this one..
By the_fourth_horseman (SI Veteran Member) on Jun 14, 2012
Day of the Tentacle-ish, Fate of Atlantis-ish or Prisoner of Ice-ish? With dito system requirements? Either way, I'm definitely looking forward to this.