Disclaimer: I got a copy of the game as a backer of the production Kickstarter, and my name appears in the credits. This review contains spoilers.
Well, I finally finished Resonance. Yes, it took a long time.
A bit of history:
Resonance is one of the earliest projects I backed on Kickstarter, if not the first. I didn’t know Vince Twelve, but he had very good references, and the trailer looked good, and he asked for very little, so I gave him my money.
On November 1st, 2009, the project was funded. A couple updates were posted, then nothing for two years. Zero. Zilch. The author only resurfaced in early 2012 to talk of a deal with Wadjet Eye Games, which would be the new distributor, and the game finally came out in June of 2012.
On the game itself:
There are several good ideas in this game, though implemented with various degrees of success.
Resonance features four possible player characters. You alternate through them in the beginning, then play all four in the middle part, and are back to just two for the final act.
In the beginning, the different points of view give depth to the story and allow us to see different parts of the world. However, the middle part becomes a game of juggling, as you have to remember who has what in the inventory, you can only have one character follow your chosen “main”, and there’s often no reason for all of them to be on the same map at once – and yet, at the same time, no reason to be in two different places either (like a multi-zone puzzle). There’s only really one puzzle that needs three characters to be solved.
I think it would have been best if the characters had been split for the middle part too, with only 2-3 available at the same time.
Another new feature of Resonance is the memory system, which acts as an extra two layers of “inventory”. There is a long-term memory, where plot points and goals are stored, and a short-term memory where the player can store cues from the items and scenery. Items stored in memory can be used in conversations, and the LTMs can also be replayed as short movies that sometimes provide clues.
While the LTM is a pretty cool mechanic, the STM falls short and is usually just annoying for the same reasons above: you hardly ever need a memory from a different area of the game, so why the need to carry them around?
The puzzles are mostly good, with precious little pixel hunting, nonsensical solutions, or combine-A-with-B in the inventory.
There are a few obscurely obtuse exceptions: I got stuck on finding Morales’ will (Why would it be in the police archive? I thought it would be in the lab, or at his lawyer’s?), and there are two long conversations where the only possible way to find the correct path is through repeated trial and error. This is particularly aggravating in the finale, since failing just sends you back to the start of the scene, and you can’t open the menu while you’re in a conversation, meaning that you can’t save, load, change settings, or quit during the ending.
The story too is good, though a little unoriginal and relying on clichés to characterize the main characters: the nerdy scientist, the disenfranchised detective, the conspiracy journalist/blogger, and the female doctor with a history of abuse. Raise your hand if you’ve seen them before. The plot gets a little unhinged at the end, when a story that had unfolded in a few areas of the same city suddenly jumps into a global conspiracy of terrorist attacks, but it does have the same ’90s vibe as the pixelated graphics.
What I do hate is when “my” playable characters keep things from me and/or die.
There is a level of self-identification when you play a video game: even though your character is clearly not you, you direct their moves and they listen accordingly, or tell you why they would or would not do something. And in a multi-character game like this one, it’s only natural to get attached to one character or two over the others – those who resonate (pardon the pun) more with you.
So when, out of the blue, Ed shot Anna and killed her, I got pissed. Of my two favourite characters, one was revealed to be the enemy all along, and the other was removed from the picture right after a life-altering discovery.
I suspect this was clearly deliberate. In the first part of the game we had hints that threw suspicion both towards Ray and Bennett, and the last act is the part of the story where instead they show their worth and save the day. But still, it caused a dissonance: if I “was” Ed, why didn’t I know anything about what he knew, or his plans, or his real intentions? If I “was” Anna, why did I die in such a way?
Summing up: a good 10$ 90s-style adventure game, with a few innovative mechanics and a few blunders, but it never rises to memorable.