Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: 2007
Note: Originally published 25 April 2008
Eleen and Mykael Nyqvist are back with this, the fourth in the Carol Reed adventure game series. This time, Mykael even plays a role of one of the characters so it’s evident that this is a game close to the Nyqvists’ hearts.
It probably isn’t necessary to recap who Carol Reed is but I will anyway. Carol is an English woman who arranged to spend a holiday in Norrkoping, Sweden as part of a house swap arrangement. She fell in love with the place, became involved in a mystery, and fortune intervened allowing her to stay on. This is the fourth in the series, following on fromRemedy, Hope Springs Eternal and Time Stand Still.
Once again, Carol’s sleuthing skills are called upon in to investigate the murder of a vagrant in the apartment of a friend of Jonas, Carol’s “will they/won’t they” love interest introduced in previous episodes. It’s a fairly innocuous adventure game, one that won’t put off younger and older players. Even though it’s about murder, it’s in the “Jessica Fletcher” vein where you know the protagonist is never in danger even though they challenge the culprit in the end. And end the game does…VERY suddenly. I was completely confused when the game ended. I sat back and watched a cutscene where all the loose ends were tied. Frankly I felt a little ripped off - there ought to have been more development of the plot in the game so that I DISCOVERED and tied the loose ends myself instead of having them dished up on a platter to me. Perhaps I’m a little hard on the game here but disappointment was overwhelmingly the feeling I had at the end of the game.
The game uses a similar game engine to previous installments, only this time there are nice touches apparent in the save menu, an introduction to how to play the game, g questions and searching for answers as to who committed the crime. This is a point-and-click adventure game with a small number of interactive icons. It is always apparent when something can be interacted with or looked at. This makes the game very intuitive and people, young and old, will have no trouble stepping into Carol’s shoes.
The game looks great. It’s made up, as before, of a series of high-quality photographs, many of which are watercolored, adding a touch of the surreal. The only complaint I can anticipate people making is that there is very little movement in any of the images other than some water effects. These are static images akin to the effect of Myst many years ago. Take note of the stunning sepia photos that identify when a new area is being entered. The images are some of the best monochromatic photos I’ve ever seen. The Nyqvists must be highly experienced photographers to achieve the subtlety and beauty seen in the many images in the game.
Sound effects are used sparingly as in previous games. The soundtrack is eerie and adds to the sense of loneliness. It reminded me somewhat of Vangelis’ Blade Runner themes. There are few people in any of the static pictures and I was reminded of a review I read about SPQR that commented on how strange it was that there were so few people in Rome in its heyday. Admittedly, Norrkoping is no Rome but I still thought there ought to have been people more apparent in the game. When Carol does encounter people to interact with, voice acting is above average. I’d still love to hear some Swedish in the game. We’re in Sweden but other than landmarks and occasional signs, the game could be set in any Western English-speaking nation. I know there are some people out there who do not like reading subtitles but I prefer the immersion that comes with hearing language of the country a game or movie is set in.
The game has unlimited slots for saving. The game is very stable, with no problems with the game engine at any point. The game installed and uninstalled flawlessly too. It’s great to see such a high standard of quality control, especially from a game company that doesn’t have the resources of a commercial company. An improvement on previous games was the inclusion of a map feature that more quickly allows movement between potential destinations.
Most puzzles make sense in the game world. None of them have the feeling of being thrown in to pad out the game or for no purpose at all. There were some puzzles that required a certain tool that were a little in the “out there” basket when there were items in a location or even in the inventory that could have been used for the target purpose albeit in a makeshift manner. Perhaps, next time the developers could allow a resourceful gamer to attempt to use the alternate item with a sensible outcome that necessitates finding the target item… Not all puzzles are inventory based, however, and I challenge experienced gamers not to be stumped by some code-based puzzles. I definitely had to rely on the walkthrough with some of the puzzles.
Basically if you liked the previous three adventures, you’ll love this one too. It’s almost identical in every way, and the plot even feels similar to previous titles. There are some enhancements from the previous titles which make this the best release from MDNA Games to date. So, this game deserves an A- if you found the previous adventures not too humdrum. For me, and for people who like a little more realism than that found in an episode of Murder, She Wrote, this game deserves a B-.
Final Grade: A-/B-
1 GHz Pentium processor
128 MB RAM
16 MB video card
800 MB free hard disk space