A Tale of Two Cities
is the fourth game in the Enter the Story series (all based on
literary classics), and it's something of a departure from the previous
three games. Enter the Story: Les Miserable, Dante's Divine Comedy,
and Genesis of the Gods were quirky, even unique -- sometimes
awkwardly designed as games, but thought-provoking and full of
personality. This fourth game still contains some of the awkwardness in
terms of gameplay, but it is less colorful (literally), with a smaller
gameworld, less lengthy philosophizing among the characters, and fewer
association challenges. It sticks closely to Charles Dickens' original
portrayal of the characters and their motivations, but it loses something
in the process.
Then Tell the Wind and Fire Where to Stop, but
Don't Tell Me
The game opens dramatically, with a startling
announcement, followed by a horse and rider racing through the night.
Revolution is stirring in 18th century France, and Lucie Manette must go
to Paris to find her father, who has just been released from the Bastille.
The heroes at this stage seem to be the Defarges, revolutionaries who take
care of Dr. Manette until Lucie can arrive from England to take him home.
The tale then winds its way into the lives of Charles Darnay, a former
French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, who defends Darnay in an English
court when he is accused of spying. The angel/heroine from previous games,
Peri, reprises her role here, appearing as the Manette's housekeeper, Miss
Pross. (None of the characters are voiced.)
The combination of an ensemble cast -- plus temporal
and geographical leaps -- makes this story harder to follow than the
stories in Les Miserables and Divine Comedy. In A Tale of
Two Cities, years pass with just a sentence or two to describe them.
One scene ends with Peri as a rabble-rouser, inciting the revolutionaries
in Paris. The next scene opens in England a year later, with two main
characters now married, a new baby, and another character having recovered
from a mental illness. All the new developments are covered in a couple of
lines of dialog.
The game does a good job of portraying the conflicted
Darnay, who is trying to escape the cruel practices of his ancestors, but
can't decide whether to cut all ties to his aristocratic family. Sydney
Carton is much more of a cipher than Darnay in the game, and his
motivations are not well developed until near the end. Sometimes it seems
as though Carton was thrust into the game as an afterthought -- he even
has a couple of dialogs where he discusses himself in the third person, as
though he's another character entirely. That said, at game's end, Carton's
self-doubt and disgust with his past finally starts to come through, at
least enough for the ending to be believable.
The ending is tremendously affecting. Despite the
gaps in the story and the sketchy development of the characters, it's
worth playing the first two thirds of the game in order to experience the
Gardens in which the Fruits of Life Hung Ripening
The Enter the Story games have an unusual art
style. The developer, Chris Tolworthy, takes elements from classic
paintings and other sources, and crafts them into sweeping vistas. Outdoor
scenes contain impressive detail and use extensive panning. The
environments are interesting places to explore and, since the elements in
them are often drawn from historical sources, they are authentic.
The locations in A Tale of Two Cities contain
tones of black, white and grey with occasional accent colors (usually
foliage). This monochromatic palette in the game is an intriguing
experiment, though by the end it starts to feel rather bland. I hope the
"less is more" color trend doesn't continue in the next Enter the Story
game -- The Count of Monte Cristo.
Characters in A Tale of Two Cities are
sketchily drawn for the most part, and partially animated, including
occasional changes in facial expressions. One advantage of this minimalist
style of drawing characters is that it's possible to portray Paris and
London as places with masses of people loitering, working, and strolling.
The individuals in groups are made of just a few smudgy lines, but they do
give a sense of crowds that I haven't experienced in other adventure games
set in these same cities.
Background music is orchestral and choral and draws
on classic compositions, as well as featuring contemporary instrumentals.
The music is somewhat more traditional and bombastic than in previous
games. My favorites were the tension-filled "Nerves" by Kevin MacLeod and
the dramatic "Cello Concerto Opus 104" by Dvorak.
It was the National Razor which Shaved Close
A Tale of Two Cities continues to feature
association challenges, where you right-click on a person and then on an
object in the environment in order to associate the two. The association
puzzles in this game were more direct and, thankfully, didn't require as
much back-and-forthing through the gameworld as in previous games. There
were fewer association challenges than in previous games, moving the game
closer to "interactive story" status.
The non-association challenges are something of a
mixed bag. The knitting puzzle (logical to include, given the storyline)
unfortunately didn't make a whole lot of sense. It took repeated hints for
me to finally understand what I was supposed to be seeing in the knitting.
On the other hand, the trebuchet puzzle at the walls of the Bastille was
surprisingly fun. Who knew it was so entertaining to lob large objects at
At one point, when the story has moved to Paris,
information is needed from a source back in England. This is gained in a
roundabout way that had me scratching my head. I sent Peri back to get the
information, but she couldn't recover it, even standing in the precise
spot where the information was to be obtained. Not only that, Peri kept
talking about not having time to get back to England, despite the fact
that she already WAS back in England. I had to use the Hint system again
to figure out what I was supposed to do.
Nothing Else Connected with It to be Looked After
A Tale of Two Cities features a
point-and-click interface, and uses a third person perspective. Clicking
on the "Help" text at the top of the screen brings up a brief game manual.
It's important to learn to use the "Map" and "Recent" functions to
facilitate getting back and forth and to make the association challenges
easier. The game has an unlimited number of save slots. I experienced only
one minor glitch with a temperamental directional arrow outside a prison
In a change of course for this series, you cannot
wander from one Enter The Story gameworld right into another
gameworld (i.e., you can't leave the Paris locations in A Tale of Two
Cities and step into the Paris locations in Les Miserables) . I
was relieved to see this change. While the idea of linking up dozens of
stories to make a huge adventure game storyworld certainly has appeal, in
practice it was disorienting to find myself suddenly in another story. In
a further improvement, hints in this game are given without sending you to
another location, which again eliminates the "Hey, where am I?" factor.
This is, to some extent, a nonlinear game. As a
result, sometimes dialogs and comments are out of place. For instance,
after talking to people all over Paris about the guillotine, I brought
Peri next to the guillotine on a platform near the center of town. Mobs of
people were in the square, all gazing at the "national razor." When I
clicked to have Peri describe this famous instrument of execution, she
used the standard comment for items with no relevance: "For some reason
the word "guillotine" just popped into my head." Apparently I had brought
her into the square before the game expected her to be there, and so she
couldn't comment effectively on a key story element.
Quick List for Enter the Story: A Tale of Two
This is the fourth offering in the Enter the Story
series. The angel Peri returns to France during the best and worst of
times. Moral ambiguities, violent revolution, inspirational
Third person perspective. Point-and-click interface.
Plenty of character interaction. No voiceovers. Significant amounts of
reading. The graphics rely heavily on a monochromatic palette.
A graduated hint system and brief tutorial. Unlimited
save slots. No serious technical glitches or problems with installation.
Dialogs and comments are accessible at times where they don't fit the
Associational challenges, a couple of timed
challenges, pattern analysis. No sliders, mazes, sound or color based
puzzles. Two challenges that are timed, though both have workarounds.
This game is shorter, simpler and more traditional
than earlier games in the series, and leans more toward being an
Aimed at gamers who enjoy classical, character based
stories -- particularly those who want a look at the results of oppression
and revolutionary fervor.
As an adventure game: B-
As an interactive story: B
Enter the Story: A Tale of Two Cities can be
purchased online at the
developer's website here.
Section headings are from the novel: A Tale of Two
Cities by Charles Dickens.
What I played it on:
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel Core i5-750 processor
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220
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