In an era where adventures are coming under fire for becoming stagnant and stuck in their ways, it's hardly surprising when many that venture out of the woodwork claim to be a revolution or reinvention of the genre. Culpa Innata is one that purports to be a different type of adventure, and while it mostly delivers on its promise of non-linearity, at times it falls short of its ambitions despite providing a substantial and enjoyable experience.
Culpa Innata is a third-person point-and-click adventure that focuses on the role of Phoenix Wallis, a Peace Officer that lives in the new state of Adrianopolis. The year is 2047, and Adrianopolis is part of a World Union created to eliminate crime and poverty by enforcing a mandate: the strongest and the most selfish will inherit the world. Sex is solely for entertainment, wealth and prosperity are considered imperative, and anything not scientific is considered unworthy. Children are reared not by the parents (or “bio-family,” as the game refers to them) but by specialists at a Child Development Center. All non-World Union countries are therefore deemed as “Rogue States,” considered to be inferior due to their old ways of emotions, emphasis on family and spiraling crime levels. Those wishing to move to the new order have to pass a series of rigorous tests, as well as interviews designed to highlight any potential troublemakers.
However, all is not well in Adrianopolis. A Union Citizen named Bogdanov has been murdered across the nearby border in the rogue state of Russia—an event which also mysteriously coincides with the unexpected death of a prominent professor within the Union itself. Phoenix Wallis is assigned to investigate the deaths and discovers that all is not quite as stable in the New World Order as she previously thought.
From the synopsis above, you can probably tell that Culpa Innata is an in-depth game in terms of storyline, and this is reflected within the world itself and much of the dialogue. A detailed timeline of events has been established from the dawn of history up to the present year of 2047, while there are guides and regulations available to you that further expand upon the state's history. Because of the story’s depth, though, many of the revelations are unraveled slowly, so those looking for a quick-paced game full of twists will find the plentiful dialogue hard to digest. The opening few hours are particularly slow and plodding before the story really becomes intriguing. Culpa Innata is accurately described as a slow burner and while this isn't a bad thing, it can often be lacking in excitement.
As a result of the futuristic setting, technology has understandably moved on. Pen and paper is a thing of the past; everything is now conducted through the use of gadgets and computers, and computers even monitor who is at the front door. It's a shame, really, that the graphics don't reflect this as much as they could. Although many of the offices that Phoenix visits boast modern, dome-like structures that you might expect from the future, the visuals themselves look dated and rough around the edges. The choice of locations doesn't deviate much from the office/waiting room format and although you'll get to visit a few shops and an underground network later on (assuming you uncover this during your first play through), a bit more variety could have been included. This is not helped by some poor character movement animation. There is one scene particularly where Phoenix participates in a chase, and the animation of both running characters is so ridiculous, the illusion of reality is ruined. However, credit must go to the developers for the effort put into the facial models; not only is the lip-synching fantastic, but the eyebrows, eyes and lips move naturally and realistically. They are the most realistic portrayal of the human face I have so far encountered in an adventure game, and the effect really brings the characters more to life.
Unfortunately, the realism is let down slightly by some poor voice acting. Thankfully, Phoenix is one of the better-voiced characters in the game, conveying genuine emotion at the right moments. The same can not be said of the bulk of her fellow co-stars; while Chief Dagmar Morssen, fellow Peace Officer Julio Dominguez and best friend Sandra Pescara are more than adequately voiced, the rest of the cast (especially those with Eastern European accents) are appalling, almost akin to the effect of dragging your nails across a chalkboard. The musical score is fairly insignificant, rarely having an impact on the game itself, but this doesn't detract much from the atmosphere. Curiously, those who select the subtitle option will notice that though all cutscenes and dialogue are subtitled, Phoenix's inner thoughts are not, meaning you'll have to refer to the written diary to see what has been said.
Phoenix Wallis herself at times is a difficult character to really relate to. Her naiveté during the most obvious lines of questioning becomes irritating and actually makes the realistic setting less plausible. How can a Peace Officer who is in the line of work of questioning potential Union Citizens from every conceivable background, still not know a word of slang or basic human customs? Control of Phoenix can also be a little frustrating, although this is a function of the game design: clicking in a direction to walk can change the camera angle, meaning she'll wander off to an entirely different place than you intended. Some characters you meet vary in personality, from the stern and strict Chief Morssen and the flamboyant Roger Arnett to the deeply irritating Gladys and the infuriating assistants at the Thing Store. Sadly, the rest of the cast lack any real personality and are pretty bland despite the amount of dialogue each one has to offer.
All citizens belonging to the Union wear sophisticated headsets known as PDAs, which contain all personal details, maps, contact lists containing useful telephone numbers, and a diary. This PDA is the main interface that Phoenix will utilize throughout the game, where the diary will automatically update to follow the story and important locations will be made available upon their disclosure during conversation. The fact that such a device is an integral part of the gaming world makes it feel more natural than many inventory systems. Incoming calls are displayed via a video of the person speaking, and seeing this from a third person perspective is quite a surreal experience! There are also occasions when the PDA malfunctions deliberately to set up several puzzles which is a nice touch and adds again to the feeling of a living and breathing environment. The ability to be transported directly to a location just by selecting it from the map eliminates a lot of unnecessary walking that some games are guilty of.Continued on the next page...