Technobabylon: A Cyberpunk Adventure Game
They had me at cyberpunk, and
WadjetEye sealed the deal.
Anyone familiar with WadjetEye
will recognise the style and no one does pixelly retro better. Anyone
else might be a little surprised by the graphics, but will most likely
get sucked into the events, and forget all about the “look”. It’s a sum
of the parts thing – the characterisation, the story, the score, the
puzzling, the detail in the blocky graphics, and all the other bits and
pieces come together to create something much more than it may at first
appear to be.
Technobabylon takes place in
Newton in 2087, a city run, or at least overseen, by a Central
artificial intelligence. It’s a future in which a Trance state between
minds can be preferred to living in the real world, and in which police
are trained scientists in order to function in the bioengineered
environment which has been created.
We meet two such police, Drs Max
Lao and Charlie Regis, but not before we spend some time with Latha
Sesame, a refugee who came to Newton as a refugee from some South Asian
conflict. Supported by the state, she prefers the Trance, which is
probably not surprising given the squalid state of the public housing
apartment. However a glitch has dumped her out of the Trance and locked
her in the apartment, something she need to rectify and which occupies
the first short part of the game. The Trance itself is an interesting
puzzle adjunct, and will be utilised in order to move things forward.
Then we meet the good Drs, on a
case involving a mindjacker who is stealing knowledge directly from
people’s brains, the result of which is death. Dispatched downtown to
follow a lead, a surprising interaction with a car leads to a further
victim, and an unsuccessful rooftop pursuit of the perpetrator . Then
it’s onto a train bomber, and then a grisly double murder with a less
than helpful synthetic maid.
You play Latha in the first
part, and while Lao and Regis are partners in pursuit of crime, you at
first only play Regis, although there is very much a sense of both of
them being involved. Eventually you get to play as Lao, and while most
of the game determines who you play at what time, towards the end you
get to choose between them.
The third person perspective
doesn’t lock you into “being” any particular character; rather you play
with them. The two Drs are good foils for each other, in much the same
way that Joey and Rosa were. They are different too, Charlie shunning
some of the technological implants common to the world and preferring to
be “off the grid”; Max being very much the model police person. Neither
though are afraid to bend protocol when the circumstances require it.
In my “first look” I mentioned
that Technobabylon had a many layered plot, and I wasn’t wrong. So many
layers in fact that I confess I got a little confused, and found it
difficult to keep everything in order (in fact, I failed). While a
second play through will undoubtedly help, and the promise of some
different endings based on choices will assist that likelihood, I did
think it was too convoluted for its own good.
While I enjoyed the main
characters, I didn’t really warm to them. That isn’t necessarily a bad
thing, just that there was nothing about them that made me want to root
for them as people. Lao came closest, providing a ray of sunshine that
helped compensate for the somewhat gloomy Regis and the even gloomier
world. I did have some sympathy for how Regis had come to be how he
was, but it didn’t make me like him. I did however have a grudging
admiration for them both. Latha I am not sure about; I will be
interested to see how I feel next time through with the benefit of the
whole game behind me.
Which is not to say that the
characterisation was lacking; rather, for me they were people I
respected rather than befriended.
Technobabylon is pure point and
click, and by and large the plentiful conundrums are logical and woven
into the game, although as always in these types of games (always for me
at any rate) I did have to engage in some old fashioned try everything
with everything to make progress.
The environments are many and
the detail quite remarkable for such a pixelly product, but on a number
of occasions the lack of definition meant I did have trouble discerning
an item against the background. Hotspots are generally decently sized
which helps, but I can’t point at what I actually can’t “see”, so the
capacity to reveal hotspots would have been nice now and then.
I thought the voice acting was a
little mixed, but nothing too contentious or distracting, but the words
themselves were well crafted. Writing has always been a strong part of
WadjetEye products, and it’s the same here. I think it took me about 8 –
10 hours to complete, and I was well pleased. If you like their earlier
products, I suspect you will be too.
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon
HD 7800 2048MB
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