What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time

 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Lassie Games

Released:  September 2010

 

 

 

by Becky

 

What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time takes the gamer to the quaint seaside village of Ravenhollow. Nigel Trelawney has just learned of his father's death and arrives in Ravenhollow to settle the estate. He finds himself bound up in a strange way with his father's former employer, the Smith Institute for Advanced Research. The research facility has been shuttered and the Institute's fantastical discoveries and creations dismantled. Is Nigel's father's death related to the abandoned Institute, or to the local Baron's new laws that are crushing the townspeople?

Dark Secrets, No Monkeys

A Stitch in Time is an Independent production employing a third person perspective in a style influenced by the classic LucasArts adventure games. Graphics are hand drawn and pleasantly quirky. The village is populated with many characters to talk to and hotspots with which to interact. Conundrums are mostly inventory based. The point-and-click interface is reminiscent of that used in Curse of Monkey Island, with a pop-up medallion containing icons that allow you to "look at/talk to/use" characters and items.

Unlike Curse of Monkey Island, though, which celebrates (wallows in?) absurdities and charming idiocies, A Stitch in Time has a somber tone. Nigel is in mourning, both for his father's death and for his father's decades-long abandonment of the family. The people of Ravenhollow are terrified by the cruel laws adopted by their Baron and his new allies. The townsfolk are being stripped of their livelihoods and (in some cases) their sanity. Visitors are trapped in the town with no apparent way out.

A Stitch in Time, which can be purchased via download from the Lassie Games website, is the sequel to the original What Makes You Tick? -- a freeware adventure game that can be downloaded here. Though it introduces a new protagonist, the story in this second game also follows the adventures of several characters from the original freeware game. These characters appear briefly at the beginning of A Stitch in Time, and then become more prominent later in the game.

The story and environments in A Stitch in Time are two of its strengths. Locations are crammed with detail and contain frequent ambient animations. The palette is subdued, with occasional dollops of intense color -- mostly in the characters' clothing. The nighttime landscapes feature a starry sky and a huge glowing moon. The background music is orchestral, varied and lovely, ranging from contemplative to ominous.

The story starts slowly, but creates a sense of mystery that builds toward multiple revelations. The story and the setting work together to create an engaging mixture of fairy tale/fantasy and science fiction.

Reading into Things

Though clearly a labor of love, A Stitch in Time contains some of the issues/compromises often found in Indie titles. The characters aren't voiced, for instance, and character animation is stiff.

The interface requires three types of comments (look at/talk to/use) for each hotspot. Each scene contains many hotspots, and the gameworld is fairly large. When, in addition to lengthy dialogs, hundreds of hotspot responses also require reading, the descriptions should be unusually compelling. Many of these aren't.

On the one hand, you'll see evocative observations, such as: "The angry sea and the salty air have taken their toll on this lighthouse. You can see and smell the rust." Or "Looking at melting candles always makes me emotional. Life is but a fleeting shadow." But too often you'll encounter comments that contribute nothing to character, puzzle comprehension or story: "I really like ivy," or " Cool bandana," or "It's a treehouse castle. With cardboard towers and all."

Fortunately, dialogs and descriptions can be clicked through so you can proceed as fast as you can read. Once you've read a dialog, if you talk to that character once more, the word "again" appears before questions you've already asked -- indicating that you won't get a new response. This is helpful, since there is so much dialog that it's easy to forget what you've already discussed. I wish the game had, from the start, indicated which dialogs were essential and nonessential, removing the need (unless the topic interests you) to read through all discussions.

Combined, Not Stirred

Most of the puzzles in this game are inventory based, including creative item combinations -- some requiring numerous steps. Items are used to manipulate mechanical devices, people and other creatures. On rare occasions, you must respond while a character is distracted, resulting in a challenge that is mildly timed.

Switching between day and night, and going back and forth between locations, is essential to accomplish certain tasks. Often it isn't clear what to do next except to wander about, searching for a missed hotspot or a character who has something new to say. Some scenes scroll -- make sure that Nigel walks to the edge (I missed an item until I figured this out).

A Stitch in Time contains an arcade-like fishing game. The necessary underwater items are not difficult to retrieve. Also, there's an option to earn money fishing if you are fast enough (I didn't even come close to winning money, but as far as I could tell, this made no difference in the outcome of the game).

Good and Bad Housekeeping

The game contains an interactive map that cuts down on some (though not all) of the required back-and-forthing. Nigel's walking pace is fairly rapid. Double-clicking on a directional arrow also zips Nigel to the next screen.

Adobe AIR is required to play the game. I always hold my breath when updating Direct X or Adobe, but installing AIR had no negative effects on my computer.

Two interface oddities: releasing inventory items -- usually accomplished by right-clicking -- is accomplished here by double-clicking. Also, the "Esc" key doesn't bring up the game menu. Instead it puts the game into a window. On my widescreen monitor, this sometimes made it impossible to access the main menu or inventory.

A Stitch in Time contains a mere ten save game slots, too few for this complex, lengthy game.

Quick List for What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time

A game from a new, promising developer with a talent for creating interlinked, multiple mysteries. Hand drawn graphics are reminiscent of the classic LucasArts adventures. A quaint (though somewhat serious) atmosphere. Lots of dialog and description. No voiceovers. All text can be clicked through but, even so, a lot of reading is required.

Third person perspective, point-and-click interface. A helpful interactive map for navigation.

Mostly inventory puzzles; many involve numerous combinations or steps. Several challenges were difficult -- for example, the mask puzzle and figuring out what to do with the globe. A couple of mildly timed puzzles. No mazes, no color or sound based puzzles, no sliding tile puzzles. You can't die.

The game is appropriate for all ages, though the story is too sophisticated for young children. Ten save game slots. About fifteen hours of gameplay.

No problems with installation and no glitches. Adobe AIR must be installed before the game will run.

Aimed at fans of the classic LucasArts adventures and anyone who craves a good story.

Final Grade: B

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

Soundblaster X-Fi

For more information about What Makes you Tick: A Stitch in Time, visit the game's website.

 

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