Reviews: Remedy - The First Carol Reed Mystery - Review 1
Carol helps a deceased friend by continuing the case that may have led to his death
Publisher: MDNA Games
Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: November 2004
Note: Originally published 28 January 2005
Remedy is the first adventure game offering from the husband and wife team of Mikeal and Eleen Nyqvist from Norrkoping, Sweden.
It is a delightful game which I had a lot of fun playing. But, most impressively, Mikeal and Eleen have given us the Adventure Game for Anyone – anyone can enjoy playing it, anyone could have experienced it and anyone could have created it.
It is rare to find a game so well made and yet so accessible. It leaves us with the desire for more, yet with the feeling that we could also create a high quality game.
Let us take a look at what I mean.
You play the part of Carol, a Britain who is visiting friends in Sweden. While there, you receive a letter from the sister of an old friend – a private investigator whom you have helped in the past. She regrets to inform you that her brother, your friend, has just passed away from an apparent heart attack. His last earthly act was to write a letter to you, which is enclosed.
Opening the letter, you find a plea from your friend to come help him. He thinks there may be something fishy about his current case and could really use your assistance. No kidding.
Stifling the groan over this cliched plot device, you decide to help your deceased friend and continue his case. And then it starts to get strange... There is no alien technology. There are no government conspiracies. There are no magic crystals which open portals to the Netherworld. Everything happens just as you would expect it to happen in a small Swedish town.
What kind of game is this? Where are the gimmicks? Happily absent. This is a simple detective story in a simple town. It is very easy to believe that you are there and that this actually happened. Even the requisite ending plot twist is believable and satisfying.
There is only one plot hole which I personally found annoying. There are several times in the game where you have evidence that a crime has been committed. So why don't you go to the police? I don't know about Sweden, but in the USA this is a good way to get into trouble. A simple encounter with the authorities early in the game (resulting in a “Go away little girl and don't bother us again”) would have removed the angst I felt through much of the game.
The Nyqvists have shown us that you don't have to be weird to be wonderful. They took a very simple story and made it compelling. This mastery of the craft gets an A- from me.
Remedy uses Adventure Maker. It is a classic 2D static slide show engine and is available to everybody. The cursors are nice and large and change nicely over the hot spots.
My only complaint is the one common for this type of engine – you don't always know how far or in what direction you've traveled when you click to move. There is one especially bad area in the park where all the paths are interconnected circles. It took me a significant amount of time just to get oriented. Time I would have preferred to use playing.
As a result, I frequently found myself playing Hunt-the-Viewpoint, the evil sister to Hunt-the-Pixel. A little more planning of the layout could have avoided much of this.
The frequent areas of disorientation lead me to give a C+ for navigation.
Most of the puzzles are of the Inventory variety. Again, they are common problems you would expect to encounter with the expected solutions. But just because you need a key for the lock doesn't mean they've made it easy to find. The difficulty goes from easy to medium.
There is one puzzle box which I found quite delightful, but otherwise it's a Grab-Anything-Which-Isn't-Nailed-Down type of game. Which leads me to the second plot hole in the game – most of your inventory is acquired through petty larceny. There is a bit of trespassing as well.
Let us say that you need a screwdriver. Instead of returning home for one, you go even further across town to the apartment house of a suspect and ransack the common storage area for one. Remind me again which side of the law we are on.
But all-in-all, the puzzles are well-conceived and fit perfectly into the story. A solid B effort.
The graphics for Remedy are a pure stroke of genius.
Traditionally, background graphics for adventure games have either been hand drawn or 3D rendered. What happens if the independent designer is not that good at either? Well, the results tend to be not that good and we try to be forgiving. After all, they didn't have a team of artists to draw upon.
But the Nyqvists sidestepped the issue and came up with another method altogether. They took photographs of their homes and the surrounding town (where the game is taking place) and processed them with an image filter which made them look like water color paintings.
The results are outstanding. If they had been left untouched, they would have looked like simple snapshots. But the filtering gives each scene the feeling of fine art. Again, Mikeal and Eleen have shown us that you don't need specialized professional skills to achieve professional results.
Yes, I know that you could not use this method for alien worlds or Space Station Oxnard. And I have no doubt that I will now be flooded with emails informing me that this method was used earlier in such-and-such a game. But they did it well and this is the sort of innovative thinking which deserves an A.
The music and sound effects are not spectacular, but just as good as most of the stuff on the store shelves.
The voice acting is very good. The average American male's image of Sweden, if he has one at all, is of the Swedish Bikini Team and The Muppet's Swedish Chef. You can see from the screen shots that no money was wasted on super models. And the voices fit the people. No great dramatics. No Shakespearian delivery. No “bork, bork, bork.” Just what you would expect to see and hear from people in the neighborhood.
And yes, I have visited both England and Sweden and this is how the people really talk.
A solid B for sound.
Playability was good.
First, I usually had no problem figuring out what to do next. You interview someone, they mention another person and suddenly a new location opens up on your map. There are only a couple of times towards the end of the game where it's not obvious what needs to be done and I found myself revisiting everyplace just to see what would shake loose. I'm sure some people enjoy that type of game play and it isn't used enough ruin it for the rest of us.
Second, the story opens up one clue at a time just as it should in a good detective story. This kept my interest up throughout the game. This, unfortunately, is not the norm in adventure games and the Nyqvists deserve a solid B for their superior effort.
Remedy is a delightful game. It is neither fancy nor fanciful, but it delivers a solid story in a solid way. It left me feeling that it could really have happened to me and that it might be within my power to create a professional game as well.
My concluding thoughts were, “That was nice. May I have another, please?”
Final Grade: B
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