As Hope Springs Eternal begins, Carol Reed is
writing a letter to her Swedish landlady. Although Carol is originally
from England, she is finding that Sweden holds an enduring fascination –
not to mention the chance to develop her skills as a private detective.
Carol’s first mystery adventure (chronicled in the game Remedy)
involved investigating the death of a friend, Conrad Vogel. In Hope,
Carol is a bit older, wiser, and more prosperous. (Just peek in the
refrigerator in each game to see proof.) Carol has taken over Conrad’s
detective agency in the historic town of Norrköping,
and is looking forward to trying her hand at another serious case.
What a Rare Mood I’m In
Stepping into Hope Springs Eternal is like stepping into one of
those perfect days where the world is drenched in sunlight and the birds
are singing and you realize that you are in love with life. Of course
euphoria doesn’t last long, and soon enough in Hope you will
realize that paradise can become a prison. But until you stumble across
evidence that something is rotten, paradise is quite a nice place in which
to stroll, smelling the roses as you go.
The environments in Hope are filled with glowing light and
vivid, saturated colors. The painterly effects from Remedy are
displayed more deftly here. Almost every screen contains objects with
differing resolutions, giving the eye more to dwell on and appreciate.
Even dark places are beautiful, with multiple points of darkened color
like a pointillist painting.
Hope also contains unexpected places to visit. For instance,
there’s a junkyard -- yes, a junkyard -- where the painterly effects set
off an explosion of tortured shapes and hues. Rust looks like neon
mottling, tire treads like snake scales, hubcaps like piles of tinker
toys. Admittedly, the mud still looks like ordinary mud. (Sadly, not
even Hope can make mud attractive.) I thought the graphics were
wonderful with one exception – the interiors of the Lofstad castle, where
I would have liked to have seen the furnishings in more detail.
Prepare for Groupies in the Graveyard
As for the individuals who inhabit this world, they’re colorful too.
Quirky, oddball, imperfect. There’s the caretaker with body piercings.
The sockless junkyard Romeo, and the meditative museum staffer with a bead
stuck on her forehead. In what is becoming a star turn, the graveyard
worker from Remedy reprises his role. He has a new haircut, he’s
finally awake and somehow he manages to make wielding a hoe look
glamorous. In Hope Springs Eternal, glamour in a graveyard seems
Hope uses photo stills of the characters – you see them in a
series of different postures and with different expressions as they
speak. I suppose that video footage of the characters would add a more
professional gloss to the game, but I doubt it would significantly improve
the characterizations, which are wacky but effective.
Most of the voice acting is acceptable, helped along by the pleasing
Swedish inflection in many of the voices. Sara Louise Williams, the actor
who plays Carol Reed, has a lovely, broad British accent that’s quite easy
on the ears. (Disclosure: one of the voice actors is a staff member at
Like Remedy, Hope Springs Eternal plays from a first person
perspective, using a point-and-click interface without 360 degree
panning. There are significant improvements here – the viewing area is
now full screen, the cursor is easier to see and use, the music suits the
mood even better, and the game is longer.
You navigate around the gameworld in Hope using a map of the
area with designated locations to visit. Dialog with the characters takes
place using a notebook with various dialog selections in it. You interact
with the game world through the cursor, which becomes a hand icon for
things you can pick up or use, and a gear icon for places you can apply
inventory items. The inventory screen appears when you place the cursor
above the viewing area. The inventory is very easy to use.
The music in Hope is sometimes haunting, and other times full of
energy. It features unusual sounds and rhythms, and is richer than in the
previous game. It doesn’t intrude, but if you turn the music down, the
game’s atmosphere is noticeably diminished.
Loss of Eden
I enjoyed the story in Hope, which contains a logical
explanation as to why cryptic clues are scattered across the landscape.
This is not an Agatha Christie-like tale with elaborate hints and red
herrings, but a gradual revelation of the events that have led to a
perplexing disappearance. By game’s end, though, I’m glad to say there is
a touch of Agatha Christie-like romance.
Truthfully, it comes as something of a surprise that conflict exists
here at all. I sometimes wonder why the characters don’t spend their
lives dumbstruck by the beauty around them. Still, there’s no law saying
that evil can’t lurk in lovely surroundings, and greed, heartache and
revenge can be right at home in the midst of blissful illusions.
Getting to the Matter at Hand
Hope contains an entertaining variety of puzzles. Some are
inventory based, some are observational, some interpretive. There are
also button pushing challenges, plus a sequence much like a treasure
hunt. The most difficult puzzles can be bypassed if you become stuck and
frustrated – a nice feature. There aren’t any pixel hunts in the game,
but it is necessary to explore your surroundings from every
possible angle. There are a few items that become “hot” and can only be
picked up after a certain trigger in the game. The passage of time also
becomes important. Some things change as the investigation continues, so
it’s important to check back in places you’ve visited before.
Although the challenges in Hope are not the most noteworthy part
of the game, they support the game’s obvious strengths and keep you
thinking and guessing – and solving them is rewarding.
Quick List for Hope Springs Eternal
First person, point-and-click mystery adventure. A sequel to Remedy,
Hope Springs Eternal is deeper, more mature, and more satisfying.
Extremely colorful, unusual graphics. Intriguing plot, quaint characters,
brief character interaction.
Inventory, mechanical, and observation puzzles. One slider, one mild
timed puzzle, no sound puzzles, no mazes, no puzzles requiring color
discrimination. You can choose to bypass the five toughest puzzles. You
can’t die in the game.
The game installed smoothly and played without a glitch. After
installation, you don’t need to keep the CD in the CD ROM drive. Unlimited
Many Easter Egg-like references to the adventure gaming community,
including references to GameBoomers.
Hope Springs Eternal is aimed at fans of Remedy and at
gamers who like to explore unusual surroundings, listen to contemplative
music, and converse with offbeat characters – all the while investigating
a mystery that’s interwoven through it all.
Hope Springs Eternal is an Independent production of MDNA games,
and can be purchased from the MDNA website
design copyright ©