Resonance is the latest point-and-click adventure from Wadjet Eye Games. Like Gemini Rue before it, Resonance was built using the Adventure Game Studio, and so it looks and plays like one of Sierra Online's Quest adventures from the early days of PC gaming (or circa 1985, take your pick). But is Resonance a game you'd want to play, or is there too much "old" in its "old-school"? Keep reading to find out.
Resonance revolves around a scientific discovery also called Resonance, which has the power to be used for good (instantaneous communications) or evil (big explosions). As the game opens up, the lead scientist on the Resonance project is murdered, and you, playing as four characters -- another scientist on the project, a doctor, a detective, and a reporter -- must figure out who committed the crime, and also prevent the project from being stolen and used for nefarious ends.
Resonance is played using a point-and-click interface. You left click to move your character and interact with hot spots, and you right click to examine objects. When you have multiple characters under your control (which is the case for most of the game), you just left click on a character's icon to switch to them. This is all pretty simple and effective, and not much different from any other point-and-click adventure released over the last 30 years, making Resonance intuitive and easy to play.
Probably the most notable thing about Resonance's interface is that it uses your "memory" for conversation topics. Long Term Memory topics automatically appear for each character, and they involve events that have happened in the past (like the doctor remembering her childhood). Short Term Memory topics must be manually remembered for each character, and they involve things that you see (like a painting on the wall or the door to a room). These topics are then used in the game for solving puzzles or for bringing up new topics. For example, when you want to distract a police office, you have to ask him about the copy room, which causes him to go into the room with you and help you with the copier, clearing the way for another character to sneak past his desk.
Memory topics add a level of obfuscation to the puzzles, which is both good and bad. It's good because it makes the puzzles a little bit tougher. In most adventures you just have to worry about objects and hot spots, and it's not too challenging to try everything everywhere and solve the puzzles through exhaustion of the possibilities. But in Resonance, you have objects and hot spots like normal, plus four characters, plus their memories, and so there is a much wider range of possibilities. Unfortunately, memories aren't always used well, or they're used in awkward ways, and sometimes things that aren't really supposed to be puzzles (like finding the cemetery) turn out to be head-scratchers.
Otherwise, the puzzles are about what you'd expect from an old-school adventure game. Most are inventory-based, where you pick up objects and use them in the right way, but there are also some mechanical puzzles (such as rewiring a broken door) and action sequences (such as fleeing from an assailant). Nicely, a lot of the puzzles have multiple ways of solving them, and others can be skipped, so you can keep the game in your comfort level. You can also have the characters talk to each other and ask for hints about what to do next, which is a good way to get a gentle nudge in the right direction.
One of the highlights of Resonance is the writing. There is a lot of humor in the game (such as when you discover that two co-workers are unknowingly emailing each other), but Resonance also includes some darker topics and raises some philosophical questions, the most basic of which is: "Do the ends justify the means?" All of the characters you meet in the game have their motivations, and at the end you might have a hard time deciding who, if anybody, is the bad guy. The storyline also includes some unexpected events that I didn't see coming, and it did a nice job in drawing me further into the game.
The two things I care most about in an adventure game are its puzzles and story, and Resonance does a good job with both. The puzzles are solvable without being too easy or too difficult, and the story might actually make you think -- and perhaps join in a forum discussion somewhere. The downside to the game is that it uses a 640x480 native resolution, and so it doesn't look great, especially if you stretch it out to full screen. But since Resonance scores highly in the things I care about and lowly in something I don't, it's an easy game to recommend. So if you like adventures and have $10 to spare, do yourself a favor and purchase Resonance -- and keep an eye on Wadjet Eye Games in the future, since their recent history makes them the best adventure game publisher around.
This review is based on a digital copy of Resonance for the PC provided by Wadjet Eye Games.