Largely due to mobile platforms such as iOS and services like XBLA and PSN, independent developers have surged to the forefront of world of gaming. Games such as Bastion, Tiny Wings, and Journey are winning over gamer’s hearts the world over for a tiny fraction of the price of most ‘Triple A’ titles. Yet these games do not skimp on polish, content or storytelling, and in many cases are pushing large developers to pull up their socks and take notice of the little guys. Over the past week or so, I have been playing indie developer Wadjet Games’ latest title “Resonance”. Did it resonate with me? Should you stand up and take notice? Read on to find out.
Resonance tells the engrossing and thought-provoking story of 4 characters brought together by circumstance and chance. Dr. Morales, a brilliant scientist, has unlocked the secret to unlimited safe, clean energy, but is murdered in an attempt to weaponize the technology. A scientist, a cop, a journalist and a physician must work together to solve the murder of Dr. Morales and save the world from certain destruction. Sounds pretty simple, right? As a person of the scientific persuasion, the root concept of the game is extremely intriguing. The good Doctor has devised a method to split electrons into two sub particles. When the sub particles are moved some distance apart and then released, the particles instantly reunite at the halfway point releasing massive amounts of energy – energy that could be harnessed into electrical power, or explosive force.
Players can expect loads of twists and turns, with the drama level ratcheted up to about 9.5. In short, this is one of the most intriguing stories I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in a LONG time. The dialogue is well-written, the characters ooze emotion and the world sucks you right in. The plot leans heavily on the characters, and their interplay makes the story a joy to be part of. I could really identify with the characters during the game, and their minute-to-minute interactions make the whole thing very believable. It was simply excellent from start to finish.
Resonance plays out in a style that some might remember from the distant past. It is a point and click adventure, and I loved every minute. It’s simple enough to be enjoyable for everyone who plays it, but uses some interesting mechanics to keep things from feeling stale. Various items in the environments can be added to each character’s inventory for later use, but certain things can also be placed into a character’s short term memory. For me, this is a total revelation. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been playing an RPG and had the characters speak about things I’d never heard of or couldn’t remember.
In Resonance, you could add, say, a computer to your short term memory, so you could ask other people you encounter about it later on. I experimented a little with this function, and the developer has done a great job implementing it. For the most part you can ask anyone about anything and get a fairly realistic response. I give big kudos to the development team for being thorough and making this feature feel very natural. Beyond the short term memory, each character has a long term memory, which stores important events automatically. This is equally genius, especially with a complicated story such as this. Long term memory items can be used in conversation much as the short term memory, but simply selecting an item brings up an instant replay of the event. This is implemented in slick fashion as you really feel as though the characters are recalling previous experiences.
In all, Resonance plays like a master class in slick and intuitive design. I could see some people being irritated by the memory system, especially those raised in the hand-holding era of gaming. Having said that, I really appreciated being an active participant in the story. It forces the player to connect the dots in all situations, even if the connection should be blatantly obvious.
Resonance also has a number of puzzle aspects to it. For example, re-wiring a circuit panel to bypass a broken keypad, figuring out how to observe a shady character without getting caught or how to escape from a pursuer. Most of the time the puzzles are fairly simple, but satisfying to solve – when stuck, the solution was often smacking me right in the face without me noticing. Resonance is one of those games that immediately sunk its hooks into me and refused to let go. It really has that “just one more level… Good gravy, when did 3AM roll around?!” feeling to it.
Throughout the game, I constantly felt like Resonance would be a perfect fit on iOS and Android. The point and click interface would transfer very well to touch control, and I could definitely see myself playing Resonance over some of the less cerebral titles present on my iPhone.
Resonance is gorgeous to look at. It’s not at all photorealistic, and that’s perhaps why I like it so much. It has 16-bit style, with thoroughly modern production values and attention to detail. The characters are well detailed and expressive, and environments are really great to explore. The pixel art aesthetic, impressive lighting and special effects make things feel thoroughly contemporary. The most noticeable component of the sound is the voice acting, which is excellent. The characters exude emotion and personality, and avoid the stiffness that many games throw at the player. The music is not particularly obvious when you’re playing, but it adds extra atmosphere to the various environments. It’s creepy and victorious when it needs to be, but avoids stepping on the toes of the characters. The sound effects do the job well especially in sequences where sound gives you information about the situation. For example, when someone was trying to break through a door, the sound effects added a little extra motivation to barricade the door.
Overall, Resonance is a highly entertaining game. It has a first-rate story, great aesthetics, and the intangible qualities that make a game hard to put down. In fact, it is one of the best games I have played this year and I can wholeheartedly, unabashedly, unswervingly recommend it to anyone who plays games. It is a special game, plain and simple.