Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers)

Posted by: CBSection31

Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/16/09 05:48 PM

This is only the second time I've ever posted a review of a game. Ironically, the first time was for the first Still Life, a game which I had listed as - in terms of story - one of the best I had ever played.

Sadly this second game does not live up to the first, either in story or in gameplay, thus making it a huge letdown.

This review will be split up into 3 parts: graphics/audio/engine, gameplay, and story.

GRAPHICS/AUDIO/ENGINE:

The game is real-time 3D. As someone who is currently developing a real-time 3D game (Stonewall Penitentiary), I understand the difficulty surrounding this. However, the end result is...well, poor. The graphics themselves are outdated; not that I mind this. No, the problem relates to the numerous graphical glitches that are present throughout the game. Character animations don't transition smoothly and camera cuts don't always work properly.

There are numerous bugs throughout the game. I had to restart from an earlier save numerous time, due to these bugs. One example is early in the game, my character was stuck in a room which she could not escape. If you take one particular action in this room, the animation becomes stuck in a loop, forcing you to re-load an earlier save. If you don't have a save, then you will have to start over from scratch. In fact, the beta of my own Stonewall Penitentiary runs more stable and is less glitchy than Still Life 2.

The audio is a mixed bag. I do feel that the voice acting is on-par with the first game...in other words, not great, but good. The music is decent, too. The problem here is in regard to audio levels. You can individually control the volume of sound effects, music, and voices, which is a good thing. However, at times the music will drown out the voices. Other times, the music will be so low that it is inaudible. So you basically have to choose between setting the music so low that you never hear it or setting it high enough to hear, but have it sometimes drown out the dialog. Luckily, there are captions, which helps.

The cinematic videos, while graphically superior to the first game, are not as numerous or good. Yes, they look better...but they feel much less cinematic. The first Still Life had a definite "mood" to the videos. It felt like a movie. This feels like a game, and I wasn't drawn in like I was with the first game.

Overall, the game has a very low-budget/unfinished feel to it. I have the feeling that Microids either pushed this game out the door prematurely because they were behind schedule or they had only a fraction of the budget of the first game. In any case, this game looks and feels like it was made by an indie developer on a shoestring budget, not a mainstream title. So in this regard, the game is a disappointment. From a studio like Microids, I expected much more.


GAMEPLAY:

This is the brightest aspect of the game. The gameplay is, for the most part, quite fun. There is a feeling of intensity to parts of the game that the first Still Life lacked. Furthermore, I found Still Life 2 to be MUCH more challenging than Still Life.

All of the puzzles are quite logical, yet still manage to be difficult. There is some pixel hunting required, sadly, but it isn't *too* bad once you learn the controls of the game.

My favorite part of gameplay is the testing kit you receive during the investigation. This kit allows you to perform lab-like tests on evidence you find, in a manner similar to the CSI games. It's always fun searching for clues, analyzing them, and drawing up results!

In terms of gameplay, there are two downsides: lack of variety and the inventory screen.

By lack of variety, I mean that, for the most part, puzzles consist solely of item collection and use. Don't expect there to be numerous single-screen puzzles (Shivers or 7th Guest type stuff) in this game. Everything here is, essentially, bring item A to point B and use.

As far as the inventory screen goes, let me explain how it works. You have a limited number of grid spaces in your inventory, meaning you can only hold a limited number of items. In the game, there are containers available in which you can store excess items. So there are times when you have to decide if you should bring item A with you or item B. In concept, I like this idea, as it adds a sort of mini-puzzle to the game. In use, however, it is nothing but annoying, as it requires constant backtracking to switch items. As it stands, it is simply an artificial way of prolonging the game that aggravates the player along the way.

There are fewer areas to explore than in the first game, as the gameplay largely takes place in one large house. There is also a lot less dialog in this game than in the first; talking to characters doesn't happen as frequently.

The last thing I'll mention regarding gameplay is that there are timed sequences in some places and times in which you can die. I don't mind either of these, but some might.


STORY:

This is where the game really fails...and it's a shame, too, as this is what I was looking forward to the most.

First I will cover the new story...yes, there is a NEW story. The focus of this game is on "The East Coast Killer", an investigation that takes place years after the events of the original Still Life.

The story itself is exciting and feels similar to the Saw movies. The problem I have with this is twofold: first, I was hoping that Still Life 2 would focus on the story that started in Still Life 1. I didn't want to track down a NEW killer, I wanted to track down the FIRST killer, Mr. X. Second, the new killer - at least for me - wasn't nearly as creepy as Mr. X. This game felt like a thriller rather than a mystery, and as a result I didn't find this game scary in the least, whereas the I still am afraid to play the first one home alone at midnight with the lights off!

This brings me to Mr. X and the conclusion of the first game's storyline. I will have to be careful what I say here, so as not to give anything away, so forgive any vagueness on my part.

Still Life 2 begins with Vic McPherson in Los Angeles, where she was headed at the end of the first game. This intro to Still Life 2 basically recaps the events of the first game and gives the player some new information relating to a string of L.A. murders that occurred when Mark Ackerman - the original killer back in Gus's time - was in a mental institution. This information is presented in text form. When the player finishes reading everything, a revelation regarding Ackerman is made and the game moves on to the new storyline. This new storyline contains characters far less developed than in the original game, and the “twist”, if you can call it that, is insanely predictable and expected. I actually shook my head in disbelief when it took place, because I called it early on and was hoping I’d be wrong. Sadly, I wasn’t.

The rest of the Still Life 1 story is told, mostly, in flashbacks. I can't say much here, except that - of all the possibilities they could go with the identity of Mr. X - this was my LEAST favorite. Furtheremore, instead of building up the revelation, it just...kind of happens. It is very anticlimatic, and the killer's justification is filled with cliché and quite unrealistic. This was the biggest letdown of the game for me, and made me seriously consider giving up without finishing the rest of the game; after all, I was playing this game to finish the original's story...I didn't care about the new killer, the new case...so why bother playing? I did ended up finishing the game, of course, and I suppose in retrospect I'm glad I did.

The overall sense I got with this story was thus: Microids intended to have the original Still Life complete the story. But they run out of funding/time, and were unable. Flash forward to years later, when Microids made its comeback, and they announced Still Life 2. They realized that they didn't have enough story left to make up a second game, and so instead they came up with a new story and just sort of threw in the last scraps of story they had for the original killer in with it. This would have been bad enough if this game had come out shortly after the first Still Life. But to have waited all these years for *this* was a huge disappointment!

Instead of focusing on a new killer, I would have much preferred this game to focus on an investigation of the L.A. murders and the original case, bringing about a much more epic, intricate, realistic, and satisfying conclusion.


OVERALL:

As it stands now, Still Life 2 doesn't feel at all like the first and is - in my opinion - a major letdown. In short, I was hoping for a true sequel/continuation. What I got was an entirely new game, with a short conclusion to the first thrown in.

I rated the first game an A+. I give this one a C-.

If anyone is interested in spoilers, let me know and I might start a second thread where I can discuss my disappointment with the story in more detail.
Posted by: MaG

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/16/09 06:25 PM

Thanks, Chris. Appreciate to know your impressions.
Posted by: oldmariner

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/18/09 10:02 AM

Thanks for the review. Your conclusions gives me pause in regard to running out and buying this. As my reaction to the initial game was less than enthusiastic I will wait a bit before jumping in. In fairness I enjoyed game one but found many things wanting. Your feeling this was rushed and somewhat failed to do a good job of concluding the open ended finish of the first game is a disappointment.
Posted by: CBSection31

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/18/09 12:53 PM

Just to clarify: there IS a definite conclusion to the open-ended story of the first game. It's just (in my opinion) a terrible one that feels brushed aside because they were obligated to include it.
Posted by: chrissie

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/18/09 01:43 PM

Thank you CBSection for your impression of the game! I will be buying it & was going to replay Still Life first. I think in view of your comments & others I have read I will just go ahead & play it as 'stand alone' to see how it works out! smile
Posted by: Mad

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/18/09 02:11 PM

I too intend to play it grin

However, having read your review (thank you) maybe I will be pleasantly surprised because I won't be expecting too much thumbsup
Posted by: CBSection31

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/18/09 10:40 PM

Originally Posted By: chrissie
I will be buying it & was going to replay Still Life first.


I think that's where I made my mistake. Before Still Life 2, I replayed the original (my third run-through of the game), and even took notes of all the hints and clues!

If you take the second game as something stand-alone, I think you'll be happy with it! smile
Posted by: Bernard

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/19/09 06:07 PM

I definitely disagree with CB!
SL1 was a good game, but presented in the orthodox way. SL2 is a better story presented in a more unorthodox way.

Yes, you can criticize the graphics, they're not phenomenal. However the atmosphere and mood are marvellous, when I played this game I really got involved. Not many games have that edge to it.

If I had to rank this game, it would be higher on the list than SL1.


Posted by: CBSection31

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/19/09 09:29 PM

Fair enough! I'm glad you liked it. smile
Posted by: mj2c

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/21/09 12:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Bernard
I definitely disagree with CB!
If I had to rank this game, it would be higher on the list than SL1.


Well I wouldn`t. Still Life 1 was a fantastic game but this one from the what Ive played is a BIG disappointment. Ive moved on to Secret Files 2 which is a far more polished game. I might go back to SL2 if I find myself with nothing else to play.
Posted by: Bernard

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/22/09 10:28 AM

mj2c, if you want to replay Still Life, play SL1! Yes SL2 is not perfect, but SL1 wasn't perfect either. Times change and the way AG's are made change too, luckily. Otherwise we all would still be playing text adventures.


Posted by: looney4labs

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/22/09 11:56 AM

thanks CB

It's always great to know what fellow players thought.

If this game had not been a sequel, would that have changed your feelings about it?
Posted by: CBSection31

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/22/09 12:30 PM

Very good question!

In short: yes, my opinion would have changed a bit.

I would still have felt the game was poorly made and rushed. It's extremely buggy, and certain things make it clear that they rushed the game out the door. For instance, the music in the game doesn't loop, leaving you with long periods of silence. Plus, the graphics ARE poor for a mainstream game.

I would have found the story to be more enjoyable, however, because I would not have been expecting a continuation of the Still Life 1 storyline. Thus, I would have purchased the game expecting a standalone story. The story itself was average for a game...certainly not the best I've seen, but also not the worst. I guess I just expect stories of a higher quality from adventure games. This plot reminded me more of the kind of story I'd see in a FPS or survival horror game.

All in all, if this were a standalone game and not a sequel, I would have rated it about a B-, not a C-.
Posted by: BubbaJake

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/24/09 08:13 PM

I hate saying this, but I agree about the weird glitch in that particular room where Ms. Hernandez is trapped. Nothing worked the way I thought it should; she could move around, but if she got too close to certain objects she would suddenly be back at an unfortunate position in the room. I finally gave up in frustration and left her there. Still Life 1 was one of my favorite games, one I enjoy replaying at least once a year, as I did just recently.
Posted by: Jenny100

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/26/09 08:55 AM

If you are interested in who the killer was originally intended to be, check ***here***
I read somewhere that the person who wrote this article had inside information, but I'm not 100% sure on that. It makes more sense than the one in Still Life 2 though.
Posted by: CBSection31

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/26/09 01:05 PM

^
Hehehe, I actually made a spoiler post about this game' story at JA+, and linked to that exact article there! laugh Oh how I wish that had actually happened!
Posted by: Sherryah

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/26/09 06:48 PM

Thank you for your review. Coming from a Game Developer, I take it very seriously. I am not going to rush out and buy it after reading the reviews I will wait until it is patched. It sounds like it is going to need some patches. Until that time, I have other new games like Sherlock Vs. Jack the Ripper, to occupy my wanna be detective desire to solve mysteries.

I also look forward when we can buy Stonewall Penitentiary, it sounds like a great game. I really expect more in graphics not less. That is why I make sure I have the best video card. Some people do not care but I am one that does. I also like being able to use my high resolution.

I played and won Still life 1 and hated the ending, wanted more closure after all my hard work. I also hated the scene of being in the chair and dying so many times because of the timed sequence. I am really sorry to hear in Still life 2 they didn't hear our complaints for a skip option. If you couldn't get through that scene the game would be gathering dust. Now I really fear the timed life or death sequences Chris mentioned.

At least give us a patch we can skip the hard timed sequences if needed. Just my desire probably will not happen.

Thanks again for all your feedback, helps me decide how fast to purchase a game. Waiting on this one, the video looked great. Wish there were more video scenes. Also I was hoping they would give her a new hairstyle. lol
Posted by: Moondancer

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/27/09 04:11 PM

Well, I agree with Bernard. Still Life 2 is an extremely engaging and enjoyable game in its own right.

Sure, the engine does not run glitch-free all the time, especially if you keep a lot of saves in your save folder, something which I managed to alleviate when I took all my older saves out and put them into a different folder. Or you can simply just save over older gamesaves, if you are not interested in revisiting earlier parts of the game later.

I enjoyed the music in the game, and did not experience the problem with it being louder than the voices, except for one cinematic right at the very end. The music 'non-looping' did not bother me at all, since there were not complete silences inbetween the parts with background music, but atmoshperic background sounds played, which to me seemed that it was supposed to happen that way.

I did find the limited inventory a pain, I must admit, and I certainly hope that this is not something that will catch on in AG's - it's already painful enough in RPG's. The idea in an RPG is totally different; - there the idea is for you to decide which items have more value to you from a stats/combat point of view. Since you cannot know ahead of time which items you will be needing in an AG, this seems a silly concept to have brought over into an AG. Still, its bearable, if not ideal.

I'm not a great lover of timed sequences, and I hated them in The Last Express, and did not finish Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophesy because of them, but they definitely had a place in SL2, since they added to the tension and sense of urgency, which I felt came across superbly. Most of the time one had adequate time to finish the timed sequences, and failing them did not always culminate in death, but simply a start of a second countdown, with the need to apply some aid from a first-aid kit.

I totally disagree what they did regarding the option to play out the alternate endings at the end of the game, though. One has more than ample time to finish with the "good" ending; which I did. However, when I, out of curiousity reloaded to see the second "bad" ending I was suddenly blocked from reloading once again to try out the third "bad" ending. I've been told there is and option to click on the main menu that does allow you to replay another ending once more, but I don't see why you cannot just straightforward replay any gamesave that you like. That is a very minor gripe though, and all in all, I enjoyed this game very much.

Be warned though, it does "feel" very different from SL1, and if you expect it to be very similar, you most probably will be disappointed. If you enjoyed Indigo Prohesy you will most likely love the gameplay of this game, and if you enjoyed the setting and general feel of Overclocked, and SH The Awakened, I suspect you will also enjoy Still Life 2.
Posted by: Marian

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 05/29/09 02:38 PM

Just as a point of interest, Adventure Gamers just posted their review of this game. It's interesting to compare these two reviews. smile
Posted by: xkatelpx

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 07/27/09 08:57 AM

as any1 by any change got the serial number for this game it hasn't got one and i cant find 1 anywhere.
Posted by: MaG

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 07/27/09 09:02 AM

Please do not post the same request in different forums. You have an answer at Hints forum.
We do not release serial numbers for games. Best to ask the publisher.

If it is boxed copy, it should not need one I think.
if it is download, then check the mail sent to you.

Where did you get the game: download or boxed?
Posted by: Doffy90

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 07/27/09 10:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Moondancer
general feel of Overclocked


I am so glad you said that, while I was playing the game I was thinking "what game does this remind me of" and now I have clearity. It feels exactly like Overclocked!
Posted by: xkatelpx

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 07/28/09 11:13 AM

it's a downloaded one on a disk
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) - 07/28/09 08:44 PM

xkatelpx, if it is a legal download, then you will need to contact the company you bought it from.

If it is not a legal download, then we at GameBoomers could not help you as we don't support piracy as is stated in the member agreement.

Where did you get the disk?