What is it?
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.
question is, is it So Blonde, so what? Or So Blonde, so
Is there a plot?
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.
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
How do you play?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
What do you need to play it?
512 MB RAM
64 MB DirectX
9-compliant video card
DirectX 9.0c or above
3 GB free hard disk
keyboard & mouse.
Recommended Requirements (where different from above)
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)
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