Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   xii games

Publisher:  Wadjet Eye Games

Released:  June 2012

PC Requirements:   see review




by gremlin


What is it?

Resonance is a new adventure game from XII Games; they're new to me, but that's not amazing. On the other hand, the game is published by Wadjet Eye Games, and they are known to me. They're known for 'classic' style adventure games. By which I mean games that don't push the technical limits of our hardware, but do present plenty of mental challenge for the player. This is good.

Resonance was written using the Adventure Game Studio engine (AGS). This seems to be common choice by independent developers as a way to get their stories told without necessarily having to understand or worry about the complexities of the Windows environment. Or for that matter, the massive variety of hardware and software setups gamers own. There does seem to be one fairly significant downside to using AGS however, and that is that the resulting games almost always look simple, unrefined and low-tech. Resonance may look old-school, with the relatively low resolution graphics (compared to some of the modern almost photorealistic stuff that's out there), and the user interface seems rather clunky. But underneath there's the strongly beating heart of an adventure game.

Is there a plot?

I've just said, "there's the strongly beating heart of an adventure game" in Resonance so there'd better be a pretty awesome plot to go with it ... otherwise what sort of nonsense am I babbling about? Rest assured, I've not gone nuts, Resonance does have a plot.

The game is named for a fictional physical effect not unlike quantum entanglement (pairs of very tiny subatomic particles that remain 'attached' regardless of how far you separate them in space), but extended to devastating effect by crossing entanglement with something like a nuclear bomb! The actual effect called 'resonance' in subatomic physics is more connected with the bands of energies where particles are found in an accelerator (like those at CERN, or FermiLab), but who's splitting .... erm .... atoms, here?

The fundamental plot of the game is that someone (or some organisation) is trying to steal the secret of 'resonance' from the lab where it was discovered. I was about to say that your character in the game works at the lab as an assistant to the Professor, but as you get the opportunity to play four different characters (often at your choice) as the game progresses, it's a bit wrong to use the phrase 'your character' at all.

Anyway, now that we know there are four playable characters, I can also mention that they begin with four separate plot lines. One is the lab assistant, one a nurse in the local hospital, one a police detective, and one a free-lance journalist. They all have backstories, separate inventories, and separate memories.

Speaking of memories, I think we'll have to come back to that later.

As the plot develops, you will find that different characters are required to enact different parts of the ongoing story, but overall the arc will cover alleged murder, family secrets, international conspiracies, and the modern perception of conflict between traditional 'news' journalism and 'citizen' journalism.

This is not your run-of-the-mill pseudo-Medieval, swords and sorcery adventure game, nor is it an episode of any species of CSI!

How do you play?

The mechanics of Resonance are almost entirely mouse-based. There are a few occasions where short amounts of typing are required; passwords, codes, etc., but nothing demanding in terms of timing. For the most part, you navigate your selected character around the screen with simple mouse clicks. When you have two or more of the playable characters with you, you have one selected at a time, but they can talk to the others, hand inventory items between them, and ask the others to either stay put or follow them.

In the top left corner of the screen there is always a control panel. This contains buttons to access the main menu, your inventory, the buttons to switch characters, and the selected character's short-term and long-term memory.

The inventory is pretty obvious, but the novel feature is how the game makes it possible to talk to other people about all sorts of different objects. Any clickable object in a scene can be dragged to your short-term memory, and thence can be dragged onto another person to ask them about it. It's rather like another inventory, but it's for signs, objects, people, etc. that you can't walk around with, but need to talk to someone about. If the person you need to talk to is actually present, you can shortcut around the short-term memory, and drag the object straight onto them, but if they're in another scene, you can 'take' the memory to them instead. You also have access to short-term and long-term memories during conversations, which means you can change the direction of a conversation without leaving it.

The long-term memories are little cut-scenes of things that are particularly relevant to the selected character's experiences before and during the game. You don't control what goes in long-term memory, but you can use it in the same way as short-term memories. I think this memory model is a really effective way of enhancing the normal inventory system that simplifies and enhances the flexibility of the dialog system. No longer do you have massive, long lists of possible topics for conversation ... except that, actually, you can choose to talk about anything and everything in the game - though the response may well be "I don't need to ask them about that." Watch out though, because the short-term memory has only seven slots, and memories from areas you can no longer reach are removed from the list.

So, the rest of the gameplay follows the usual point'n'click adventure game pattern of walking around the scenes, looking for things to pick up, talking to people and trying to figure out who, what, when, why and how.

Any other novelties?

It has long been considered a major positive feature to say that an adventure game is nonlinear. However, this can lead to unfocused wandering as you wonder what to do next. There is a certain bounded nonlinearity to Resonance, but they've avoided too much wandering with two strategies. Firstly, by allowing you to ask for hints from the other characters. And secondly, the story is more multi-threaded than truly nonlinear.

There are times when you have four different threads available to choose from, and others when the story comes down to a specific event. This worked well for me. I only found one occasion when I didn't know what the next objective was, which is not to be confused with the many times when the solution to the current situation wasn't immediately apparent to me!

Resonance strikes a good balance between the puzzles that are 'obvious' and the 'wuh?' puzzles. There's a good range in-between, too. The puzzles are also logical. My personal bugbear is a puzzle whose solution is not subject to logic, but expects you to hollow out a French stick of bread to make a blowpipe, down which you shoot a pen to open a door you won't be able to reach for another three hours' worth of gameplay! (I admittedly exaggerate, but there are games that make me feel like that.)

Other features

Now, you'd probably like to know a bit more about Resonance and have a bit less of my whinging. How about I talk about soundtracks. The soundtrack in Resonance is good quality pseudo-orchestral music. It's not jarring on the ears, or too sparse, or too intrusive. Again, an appropriate balance has been struck.

An area where some independent games fall apart is in the voice acting. In a plot-driven game, voice acting is critical. Without well-realised and emotive performances by a cast of quality voices, well, the plot just doesn't convince. Perhaps some of the characters in Resonance are a little clichéd, but they're not just two-dimensional pastiches of those clichés, but characters with backstories and some complexity. The cast members of Resonance do a good job of rendering those characters with satisfying professionalism.

The only area of weakness in Resonance is in the graphics. The characters and scenes look like something out of the early 1990s, not 2012. I'm not going to dwell on this though, because the key to this game is the story and the short-term/long-term memory system, which are far more important.

Resonance has taken me quite some time to complete, but that's my doing, not the game's. In terms of technical stability, it has been rock-solid. I thought I had found a dead end late in the game (at the alleyway, if anyone cares), but I was just being stupid. The save and load game system is reliable and in a standard form - there don't appear to be any limits to the number of saves.


So, finally, did this game resonate with me? (Sorry, one use of the word just had to get in here).

It did. Resonance is an excellent mixture of conspiracy theory and murder mystery.  It is let down a little by its looks. But it's worth getting past that to play the game and solve the mystery of Resonance for yourself.

Grade: B

What do you need to play it?


Windows XP / Windows Vista / Windows 7,

1.8 GHz Processor,

512MB RAM (1 GB recommended),

3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 9.0c,


Mouse, Keyboard

(I used a custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB  video card with mother-board sound card)

Resonance can be purchased from the Wadjet Eye website  or via Steam.


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