So Blonde



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Wizarbox

Publisher:    Eidos Interactive

Released:  October 2008 (UK)

PC Requirements:   See review below

Additional Screenshots





by gremlin


What is it?

So Blonde is a new adventure game published by dtp entertainment (Memento Mori, Mata Hari, Legend: Hand of God, and the upcoming Jane Jenson-penned Gray Matter), but developed by WizarBox, a relatively unknown French company, but one with connections to various well-known projects such as Arx Fatalis and L'Amerzone. Perhaps better known is the script writer on this game, Steve Ince, who worked on three of the four Broken Sword games, The Witcher, and his own Mr. Smoozles comics and game.

Now the question is, is it So Blonde, so what? Or So Blonde, so good?

Is there a plot?

The fundamentals of this story are quite simple: 17-year-old Sunny Blonde has fallen overboard from an ocean cruise liner, and has been washed ashore on an island stuck in an age of pirates. Of course, Sunny first wants to find the best hotel, pool and beach, not to mention the malls and manicurists. Shortly after that, she finds she actually wants to get off the island, but that would be pretty small cheese next to the real element of peril. There's an ancient curse upon the island, and the whole place is run by, and for the primary benefit of, the piratical Captain One-Eye and his cohort of salty seadogs.

So, will Sunny learn to live with the status quo, and make a new life for herself amongst the various native populations of the island? Or will she be a disruptive iconoclastic influence destroying the careful balance on the island?

How do you play?

For the most part, So Blonde is a point-n-click adventure. You left click to move or interact with objects, right click to get any alternative actions for a hotspot (e.g. examine someone with the eye icon, or talk to him with the mouth icon), and double click to run somewhere. The inventory is a simple popup item bar below the screen with plenty of space (and scroll arrows when required). You can combine some inventory items by picking one up and clicking on another with it. In the Options screen (more on this in a little while), there is a novice mode which highlights all hotspots when you press the space bar – so there's never any reason to complain about the location of hotspots, nor need there be talk of pixel-hunting even though some of the hotspots are really small, despite my 19” monitor.

Now for the Options screen. This was a very poor example of how to do an Options screen. I needed the manual to decipher what the icons on the screen meant, especially the three check boxes along the bottom of the screen. The Options screen is just configuration, it should not be another puzzle in the game!

On the other hand, the save system is nice and simple – you can save at almost any point (except during cut scenes or mini-games), and there is a Quick Save slot too, for those “run to separate Joey and Marshall and their plastic light sabres before they break something valuable” moments.

Finally, I have to talk about the arcade mini-games. There are around a dozen little games presented in the style of the old hand-held game devices with an LCD screen and simple black and gray graphics. These games are action sequences designed as gatekeepers to moving the story along. You have to do simple tasks like catching rain drops in a coconut shell, chopping wood for a fire, climbing bamboo poles while avoiding descending spiders, or unlocking a gate with a riddle-based combination lock. Some are easy; some are more difficult. I could complete most of them in a couple of attempts (one to figure out the rules, one or two to nearly succeed, and then one to finish it off), but a couple defeated me completely. Thankfully there is an Auto-Win button on each game. So failure is an option, but one that doesn't really block your progress.

Notable Features 

The graphics in this game, with the exception of the mini-games, are in a good quality cel animation style, and there's real consistency and depth in the environments. The scenes are large 2D paintings with paths through for Sunny and the other characters, and several of these paintings extend beyond the edges of the screen, so that the camera has to pan gently to keep Sunny as the centre of attention. Whilst this gives a feeling of a large island environment, it also means Sunny has to traverse significant distances to cross scenes, particularly ones where she enters at one extreme and leaves at another. The jungle in the middle of the island is one such place, This is a shame, as you'll spend a lot of time crossing it – it acts as the hub around which all the other areas are spokes.

It might sound like I'm criticising the graphics of the mini-games above, but I'm not. The mini-games really do capture the style of the old handheld arcade consoles, but with high-resolution graphics instead of funky little icons.

Something I would say the production team got almost exactly right with this game was the voice acting. Most of the characters were well read, with a variety of accents and styles – American, Caribbean, and Spanish English accents for the most part. The dialogue itself was amusing in places, but no more than that. There were certainly few 'laugh out loud' moments, and nothing hilarious. For the most part, the story and dialogue consists of riffs on the pirate genre, with a bit of Caribbean voodoo scattered on top.


Right from the get-go, Sunny has to exhibit nous and intelligence beyond her stereotyped nature. (Mostly because the game requires it.) There is character development within the story of Sunny, but this immediate leap made it surprisingly difficult for me to associate with her. I had no feeling that Sunny was my avatar within the game, merely that this bubbly blonde daddy's girl from the city was a slow-moving cursor forcing me to take time to move my focus of activity around the island scenes. Puh-leeze! Give me an intelligent woman like Nancy Drew or April Ryan any day.

About halfway through the game, Sunny receives a map of the island. Great! Now perhaps you can get from one end of the island to the other without going through a loading screen every few seconds along the eight-scene route.

Well, no, you can't. The map has no benefit at all, especially if you already have the map option switched on in the Options screen. So the constant tracking across the island continues, with only a small respite when you get to play as another character, for whom there are very few locations available, and whose navigation is mostly done for you. It took me a full minute to get from one end of the island to the other, with Sunny running every step of the way, and using the “double-click on the scene exit” trick as much as possible. And I'll never get those minutes back. Overall, I would say (plucking rough numbers out of the air here) I spent some 20-25% of the game navigating from one location to another.

Unfortunately, the sound track of the game is quite forgettable. The music becomes irritating quite quickly. In particular, the sound tracks don't flow between scenes – the background music restarts in every scene, so I am much too familiar with the beginnings of certain tracks that are played in the jungle – that hub scene that Sunny traverses on a far too regular basis.

Late in the game, the dialogue trees start to wander – characters continue to give out-of-date responses to Sunny, and there are even some dialogue lines that are said when the character saying them is no longer present at all.

Strangely, the only character to ever bring up Sunny's blonde hair, or to make any 'blonde' jokes or comments, is Sunny herself. Her triumphal refrain of, “Not such a dumb blonde after all,” is repeated several times after Sunny does something she thinks particularly clever. G'ah!


Technically we have a reasonably well polished game, though the dialogue trees and triggers let the side down during the fourth chapter of the game. Certainly the animations and environments are detailed and colourful. The presentation of the story through the mixture of game play, comic-style cut scenes and arcade mini-games provides some variety. However, that variety is vital given the amount of time I had to spend running back and forth through multiple locations.

Grade: C

What do you need to play it?

Minimum Requirements

  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • Pentium 1.6GHz
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 64 MB DirectX 9-compliant video card
  • DirectX 9-compliant sound card
  • DirectX 9.0c or above
  • 3 GB free hard disk space
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Windows-compatible keyboard & mouse.

Recommended Requirements (where different from above)

  • Pentium 2GHz,
  • 1024 MB RAM for Vista,
  • 128 MB DirectX 9-compliant video card

(I used a custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP1 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual, with 2048 MB RAM, and an XFX nVidia GeForce 8600GT 256MB video card with mother-board sound card)

December 2008

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