The typical adventure game, like The Secret of Monkey Island or Machinarium, usually consists of collecting items, solving puzzles, and interacting with an artistic environment. But one of the key elements of a good adventure game is the narrative: Does this game have a strong enough story to get me hooked? TSMI accomplished this hook with witty dialogue and a likable protagonist, while Machinarium captured a unique look for it’s environments and character design.
Resonance manages to combine the best elements of everything we have come to love in the adventure genre, fronting a compelling storyline and great retro-style environments and sprites. All of the playable main characters (yes, there are four) are developed and have different goals, yet somehow end up together working to solve a scientific mystery. Each character struck me as unique and cohesive: Ed echoes a feel reminiscent of Broken Sword‘s intelligent and curious George Stobbart, Anna is a troubled Latina woman struggling with her family’s past, Ray investigates the story of the decade as a blogger journalist, and Bennet is a classic hard-boiled detective looking for answers. Using the skills and influence of each individual, and putting their own jobs at risk, they cooperate to achieve a single goal. The narrative does have a couple of minor plot holes, but the larger piece is excellent enough to forget the hiccups (which I can’t detail without spoiling important bits of the story). The plot twists are satisfying and memorable.
These characters are also part of one of the other elements I loved about Resonance: Innovation. This is one of the few adventure games I have ever seen take advantage of multiple protagonists, and definitely the only game to sport four of them. In the beginning, the player only controls each character individually, but as the game progresses the characters inevitably meet and cooperate. While exchanging items and assisting each other in each environment, they also work as a kind of hint system by talking to one another. Although the hints are quite lackluster and the game is at times too difficult without a guide (especially at the peak of complexity with all four characters available), this did not bother me too much. Any fan of adventure games knows that at some point you will get stuck, and you will either be frustrated for a long time attempting to solve the puzzle or eventually find some help elsewhere. Just ask anyone who’s played Myst.
But Wadjet Eye Games didn’t stop at the multiple protagonist angle; they also implemented a memory system for their characters. Imagine being able to point to an object in a room and ask another character about it, or recall major past events that relate to the task at hand! It seems like such a small thing, but no adventure game has done this better than Resonance. It uses both Long Term and Short Term memory categories, the latter for major events and the former acting as a receptacle for ideas. Any one of these ideas can be discussed with the characters in the game, increasing the complexity of the problems to be solved but also better reflecting reality. Ideas are just as relevant as physical items, especially in a world where character interaction is foregrounded.
Unfortunately one of the drawbacks to most adventure games is the true length of the game, and Resonance is no different. These games typically seem to play out longer because of the time it takes for a player to solve puzzles, but if you already know the solutions then the game is much shorter. Resonance took me only about five hours to complete from start to finish, which consisted of me taking time to solve puzzles on my own but still resorting to a guide when it seemed all my options were exhausted. The good news is that Resonance addresses this issue by featuring a score system, alternate endings, play-through commentary, and several achievements (also recognized on Steam), which offers plenty to do for those looking to milk the value from their purchase.
At a mere $10, the same price of a two hour feature film and some popcorn at the theater, Resonance is well worth the money for it’s entertainment value. Any adventure game fan or indie game hipster should not hesitate to add this one to their digital library.