Genre:        Adventure Mystery          

Developer & Publisher:    Prologue Games          

Released:   July 2015             

Requirements (minimum):

    • OS: Windows 7
    • Processor: i3 or equivalent
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: ATI or NVidia card w/512 MB RAM
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 2 GB available space



By flotsam


Knee Deep Act 1: Wonderland

Prologue Games

With a focus on the narrative to which everything else comes a distance third, Wonderland won’t be for every gamer, but it does what it does with a flourish and some panache, and delivers it via one of the more intriguing game presentations I have seen.

We start with a suicide in a small middle of nowhere town. A “once was” Hollywood bigshot, now a “has been” dangling from a tower, the death attracts all those sorts who are drawn to the light of such things. This includes the three playable characters, an on-line celebrity blogger, an old school timeworn journalist, and a gumshoe private detective. What unfolds over the next two hours or so, does so from their different perspectives, and through their different and shifting motivations.

And it does so as a play. A curtain goes up at the stage (the world’s biggest stage it seems), the applause dies down, and we are off.

Wonderland does a rather good job of maintaining the feeling of a stage play, with locations constructed as sets, rotating stages, and the occasional whisking of the character between the different “locations”. The focus on dialogue assists, almost giving you the feeling of a director. Add the vibrancy of the colours, a predominantly nighttime environment, and a noir-ish overtone, and Wonderland is rather engaging.

There are more and more products where the main focus is the narrative choice, and in Wonderland that is pretty much it. You don’t explore your environment, there aren’t things to look at or find, no inventory whatsoever. You don’t have to solve conundrums, and save for the very occasional self-contained puzzle (eg power up the tower by placing the pieces of circuitry in the right place), its choosing who to talk to and what to say. No “game over” because of a bad choice, no keyboard pecking, no near death experiences. Near as I can recall, you don’t really choose who to talk to either, because talking to all three available characters will be necessary to progress, and talking to the first two automatically triggers a conversation with the third. I don’t even recall walking my character around a location; rather, my character went where it needed to, and I clicked on the available character to have a chat.

I have to confess that the lack of almost anything else made the play persona seem a little gimmicky as Wonderland went on. While the look and the style remained appealing, it did feel like I was very much turning the pages in a “choose your own adventure” novel. Not that that is a bad thing, just be aware of what Wonderland offers.

Having three playable characters (you don’t choose then either – when it’s their turn that is who you play) involved in the same story adds to the narrative opportunities, and the choices involved. Conversations are the stock in trade of all three, and there are many to be had.  Sometimes you simply “continue” the conversation, but most often you will have two or three ways the conversation can go. You might for instance have a choice to respond aggressively, co-operatively or deflectingly, and whichever you choose may have consequences later – a lack of co-operation with someone may mean he or she is not inclined to help you later on. Alternatively you may have a choice of subject matter to pursue, and what you learn will depend on what you ask about. Not everything is available more than once.

A choice you don’t get is when to save. Wonderland will do it for you periodically.

Each of the playable characters also gets to file reports or stories, and again you have choices. Periodically a pop up window will show you the facts or plot lines you have uncovered, and ask you to submit one. You then report your chosen bit of information with an appropriate “spin” – cautious, edgy, or inflammatory. Not surprisingly, how you report will affect the disposition of others, both immediately and down the track - make the locals out to be a bunch of yokels, and don’t expect a lot of gratitude or co-operation.

You can decide for yourself about the feedback you get about the impacts of those decisions. Apart from perhaps a gruff (or otherwise) response from the primary recipient (which you may in fact be able to ignore by not answering the phone) the only other feedback I can recall is a little pop up from time to time which might say something like “reflects an earlier conversation”. Is it enough, is it too little, does it take away from the organic nature of things or is it to opaque. Would more “real world” feedback (eg comments from people about my blog) have been preferred, a nice addition or not necessary.  

A character observes at one point that you can drown in knee deep water if you are standing on your head, and I felt a bit like that plot-wise. There is a lot of plot, or pieces of plot, crammed into Act 1, and trying to keep on top of it, even with the plethora of information that regularly slides into view on the left of screen and acts much like a notebook, was too much. So I stopped struggling, got to my feet, let it play out and just “watched”. Which helped. The water subsided, and it started to come together towards the end. Coupled with a twist, things seem nicely set up for Act 2.

Which is available, so after intermission, onwards we go.


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