Violett is a point-and-click adventure from Forever Entertainment. In it you control a young girl named Violett, who manages to get herself shrunk down to the size of a mouse, and who finds herself in a strange fantasy world where frogs sing opera and grasshoppers sail ships. Your goal in the game is to get Violett back home, which of course requires you to solve a variety of puzzles and defeat an evil spider. If you’re familiar with the likes of Alice in Wonderland or Coraline, then Violett mines the same territory.
Violett is played using a third-person perspective, where you move Violett from room to room. In each room you might find some inventory objects to pick up, some creatures to talk to, and some puzzles to solve. As an example, early on Violett enters a room with an animated tea kettle. The kettle won’t allow Violett to leave the room, but it’s sometimes distracted by a fly that’s buzzing around. So what you have to do is catch the fly and place it in a bottle next to the kettle, so the kettle watches the fly rather than the exit from the room. In general, the puzzles are fanciful in this way, and they require you to do things like start a toy train, build a raft out of matchsticks, and help a cuckoo clock bird feed its chicks.
Unfortunately, while the puzzles are creative and interesting, they are also somewhat obscure. You’re never told what your objective is in a room, or if you’ve completed it and can move on, and because Forever Entertainment wanted to make the game as international as possible, there is almost no text or spoken dialogue anywhere (characters make Japanese sounding noises when they talk, much like the teacher in Peanuts cartoons makes wah-wah noises). You also can’t see the whole room when you enter it, so you have to start playing around with things to see what’s possible, and then hopefully figure out something useful to do.
As an example, in the room where you have to start the toy train, there are a lot of gizmos for Violett to play with, and soon it becomes clear that to get the train running, you have to deliver water to the engine and coal to the coal car. But there’s also a passenger car, and you have to do something with it, too — but what? This is one of the obscure puzzles, and for two reasons. First off, the solution is that you have to use a train whistle on the passenger car, which is strange enough by itself, but the second problem is that I didn’t realize that the object in my inventory was a train whistle at all. I thought it was a song flute, which doesn’t have anything to do with trains. Half of the time when I picked up objects, I didn’t know what the objects were supposed to be, and since there aren’t any tooltips labeling things for you (because of the no-text interface), this adds a layer of obscurity to the puzzles that I’m not sure was intended.
Another issue with the lack of text and dialogue is that there is no story to the game. You’re just shown an introductory cinematic where Violett is shrunk down and shifted to the fantasy world, and then it’s just a matter of moving her around and solving puzzles because they’re there. The only reason I knew that there was an evil spider at the end is because that’s what the Steam page for the game says. From what’s actually in the game, the ending is sort of odd — and sudden — and because no character is developed along the way, I didn’t really care if Violett made it home or not. This might be an issue with Forever Entertainment being more of an iPhone developer than a PC developer, and making a game that doesn’t really take advantage of what PCs can do.
Luckily, Violett is at least easy to control. Despite what the game’s launcher says (with key bindings for some sort of running and jumping game), everything is controlled with the left mouse button. So you click where you want Violett to move, and you click (and sometimes drag) on the things you want her to manipulate. The interface also makes it clear where you can do these things. The cursor changes to feet where Violett can walk, a hand where she can use things, and a doorway where there’s an exit to another room.
Overall, I had mixed feelings about Violett. In theory I should have loved the game, because it has a bunch of strange and clever puzzles, and it resides in a bright and cheery world. But the lack of clarity got to me. I frequently didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, where I was supposed to be going, what I was carrying, or why I was collecting colored orbs (and even after finishing the game I don’t know what the orbs are for, other than earning achievements), and I found myself more irritated than involved. Still, Violett is only priced at $10, and it’s probably the type of game that’s going to go on sale a lot, so if you’re looking for something different then it’s not the worst thing in the world to purchase and try out.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
This review is based on a digital copy of Violett for the PC provided by Forever Entertainment.