Game Review: Resonance

I’m not sure how I ended up with this game. Actually, I do know how: I watched the trailer and played the demo and was very impressed with both. The thing is, as I mentioned in my review of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, I have a checkered history with adventure games–when they don’t have terrible voice acting, they have puzzles that operate on a logic that is Gordian knot levels of twisted.

From left to right: Ray, Anna, Ed, and Bennett

And then there are games like Resonance.

Resonance is a point-and-click adventure game developed by XII Games and published by Wadjet Eye Games where you take control of four protagonists on the hunt for a dead scientists groundbreaking (and potentially very, very dangerous) research. The main cast consists of Anna, the scientist’s niece and a doctor at the local hospital, Ed, his mathematically inclined assistant, Bennett, a cop who isn’t afraid to bend the rules once in a while to get the job done, and Ray, a blogger reporter who will do anything for a scoop. One thing I particularly like about this game is the diversity of its cast (both major and minor characters): Anna and her family are Latin@ (specifically, from Mexico, and the Spanish in the game is pronounced correctly, AFAIK), Ray is black, one of the main cast is implied to be gay, although you may not catch the reference unless you a) read all the things and b) listen to the commentary. Also, again, as far as I know, the characters of colour are all played by actual POCs. I didn’t find any of the characters were particularly unlikeable (though some seemed less developed than others), even the characters that only had minor roles to play had a bit of personality to them: from the secretary who writes angry emails to her boss as a form of “therapy” to the long-winded janitor to the assistant in the morgue with bright purple hair. It helps that the writing is great and the voice acting is amazingly awesome at all the right moments (two words: Logan Cunningham).

In terms of gameplay, you might expect, since you eventually control four characters, that many puzzles are going to involve cooperation of some sort, and you would be right, but a key feature of the game is it’s “Memory” system. Characters have long term and short term memories. Long term memory (LTM) is made up of key events in the game. whereas short-term memories (STM) are created by dragging and dropping objects in a character’s immediate environment into a slot, which you are then able to use in dialogue. Want to distract that troublesome secretary? Click and drag the clock into your STM to remind her that it’s time to change shifts. Need to remember where you’ve seen someone before? Maybe you have a long-term memory that can help. In true adventure game fashion, you also collect items and combine them to make new ones.

Most importantly though, the puzzles are actually logical. A solution might not readily be apparent at first, but there’s none of this twisted Insane Troll Logic that usually sends me running for a walkthrough. Seriously, it’s as easy as using pipe + duct tape to repair an old pipe, and if you get really stuck, just ask one of the main cast and they’ll drop a big hint for you (although you get an achievement for not asking for help). A few times I literally had to smack myself for not seeing a solution that was right in front of me. Some might say that the puzzles are too easy, but one thing they definitely are not is completely illogical.

Graphically, the game has this (to quote IGN) “retro, low-res pixel art aesthetic” which seems kind of goofy before characters start getting shot and start bleeding all over the place. (Seriously, don’t let the art-style fool you.) Personally, I think it gives the game character that it wouldn’t necessarily have if it were in full 3D.

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes, there is a Wizard of Oz reference in this scene.

Another thing that I liked about this game (besides everything) was the way that it managed to create tension. Not gonna’ lie, I don’t usually feel much of anything while playing adventure games. There’s no tension, no excitement, no adrenaline-pumping action–just bad voice acting, but there were definitely moments in Resonance where I was frantically clicking to get my character to do something before Bad Things happened to them. (In the process of getting the “Cut the Rope” achievement, I somehow managed to cut the rope at the VERY LAST SECOND, and then I was all like “OMGS THAT WAS CLOSE!”).

In terms of things I disliked about this game. There is a bit of backtracking involved if you didn’t give the right characters the right items, which can get annoying but isn’t really a huge hassle. Anna’s back story involves a dead mother, a subsequently alcoholic father (who dies) and being raised by her grandparents and estranged from her uncle, which is a cliche at best and stereotyping at worse. Bennett also can’t seem to figure out that the Japanese NPC is Japanese and not Chinese or “oriental” (though he is called out for this). There’s another instance I should mention, but it’s actually a major spoiler, and I think it’s definitely a case of YMMV.

Overall though, this game is great, it manages to be funny and tense and dramatic without flipping back and forth between moods like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The puzzles are logical, there are a couple different endings (and achievements that you can’t get in one playthrough). It’s definitely short but sweet, and I would go so far and say that it’s worth the ten bucks that Steam wants for it. (You can also buy it direct from Wadjet Eye for the same price.)

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