Resonance review
The Good:

Clever, twisting storyline; some intriguing hard science fiction; fantastic use of character-switching mechanic; innovative “memory” system; excellent puzzle design; charming retro graphics; multiple endings.

The Bad:

Characters are a little thinly drawn; one brutally unforgiving puzzle; multi-character manipulation can occasionally be tedious.

Short-term memories, on the other hand, are basically hotspots from the environment that can be dragged into the short-term memory bank so that they can be referenced in dialogue. Need to ask a receptionist for access to a computer terminal in the room? Drag the terminal into the short-term memory bank and then click on it while talking to the receptionist. This works really well, simulating more abstract thought processes and forcing players to take a more active role in the dialogue rather than just interacting with everything and then waiting for dialogue options to appear that push you in the right direction.

The memory mechanic never gets boring and always teeters on the right side of the "just hard enough / too dang hard" divide. In other words, exactly what we want out of a challenging adventure game. Some of the puzzles are truly brutal; the developer has been very open about his love for Riven's unforgiving challenge level, but he also seems to understand that not everyone wants to hit a brick wall every few minutes. You'll generally able to augment the toughest puzzles with an extra item (as in the case of a literal puzzle box that can be solved as-is or with the "help" of another item that gives you an advantage) or in some cases can circumvent the puzzle altogether by simply finding another solution to the problem. There is one exception, however—a dialogue sequence near the end of the game that feels unfairly obtuse, especially compared to the plethora of subtle hints embedded in the other challenges. For a game that lasts around 9-10 hours, it seems ridiculous to spend an hour and a half of it on a single dialogue tree with seemingly endless possible fail states. But it speaks to the quality here that as soon as I passed the offending puzzle, I was right back to loving the game.

Something else worth noting is the prevalence of computer terminals in the game. There are at least four or five completely unique computer interfaces that you'll encounter and almost every one features a surprisingly fleshed-out interface. Whether you're using Ray's smartphone or a command line-only mainframe terminal, it's clear that a lot of care has gone into crafting the look and functionality of each interface. It's a small touch, but one that adds a lot, especially considering how many of the puzzles take place partially or entirely within these interfaces. The rest of the game's standard point-and-click interface is polished and intuitive—left clicking on an object will use or take it, while right-clicking will examine it. Items and memories can be dragged from their respective storage banks into the gameworld to use them on characters or hotspots, or can be dragged into a small box on the dialogue window during conversation in order to discuss them.

It's not unusual for independent games to feature retro-style graphics, so it comes as no shock that Resonance tries for a mid-'90s pixel art aesthetic. What is unusual is how successful it is. It feels more like a big-budget game from 1994 than a low-budget independent game trying to look two decades old. Backgrounds are packed with detail, and while they may not have Gemini Rue's painterly atmosphere, they're certainly nice to look at, and many of them have classy little touches like cars passing in the foreground or birds flying overhead. These add a lot of life to what would otherwise be very static environments. Variety rules the day again, with locations around Aventine City ranging from graffiti-splattered alleys to sanitized hospital hallways. The game also features a single video sequence that kicks off the action in spectacular style, featuring frantic shaky-cam news footage of destruction around the globe. It certainly makes you aware of the stakes.

The high point of the presentation is the character design and animation. Every character, playable or not, looks distinctive, with subtle touches like Bennet's bad hairstyle or the Tortoise Security owner's weird cyberpunk monocle. Better yet, there are several unique animations for each character rather than relying on generic, canned animations for everything. Characters even manage to express some emotion physically, a rarity in games with this constrained graphical style.

Most of the emotion comes through the voice acting, of course, which is quite good. Pre-release coverage has made a big deal of the casting of Logan Cunningham, better known as the narrator from Bastion, whose performance in that game made him something of a minor voice acting celebrity. As Detective Bennet he does often steal the show with his sardonic and gravelly quips, but everyone does a great job. Sarah Elmaleh as Anna is the other standout—she provides the game's heart and has the most demanding and wide-ranging performance to give. The music isn't quite as memorable, providing the appropriate atmosphere but without much zeal.

There are a few different endings, and while the decision that alters the finale only crops up at the very end of the game, it does so in a refreshingly organic way. Rather than confront you with a dialogue box with options A or B, you're presented with a specific situation to see how you work your way out of it. It's conceivable that the uninformed player might not even realize that there are multiple solutions depending on their interpretation of the story up to that point. The endings themselves aren't wildly different in their execution, but they are very different in their moral implications. These aren't merely 'good' and 'bad' endings; rather they all exist in a deliciously intriguing and tormenting moral grey area.

While many games with lengthy development periods end up disappointing, Resonance will grab you from the start, challenge you all the way through, and leave you fully satisfied by the time the credits roll. It may not have the most memorable characters or the most evocative world, but it features strong storytelling for people who value a good sci-fi yarn, and clever, devious puzzles for those who want to test their mettle in a polished and relatively lengthy package. It's even very affordable at a bargain budget price.  What more can you ask for in a game?





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Game Info

Resonance

Platform: PC

Genre: Science Fiction

Developer: xii games

Indie sci-fi adventure from acclaimed freeware developer xii games

More Game Info »

Releases
Territory Date Publisher
Download June 19 2012 Wadjet Eye Games
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User Score

Average based on 47 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by emric on Dec 10, 2012

a modern, compelling, smart take on old-school adventuring

resonance delivers a compelling and smart sci-fi/thriller storytelling experience and also manages to hit that elusive sweet spot in... Read the review »

Posted by Niclas on Sep 15, 2012

Polished old school style graphics with extremely high production values.

This game is a gem. Polished old school style graphics with extremely high production values. The story is pretty average but still keeps... Read the review »

Posted by Antrax on Sep 6, 2012

An innovative old-school game

Resonance starts on a relative low note. After a brief section playing as Ed, the game suddenly displays a screen divided into four quadrants,... Read the review »

Posted by Dan123 on Aug 28, 2012

Has a nice vibration to it

Made me lose a night's sleep and go to work in zombie mode the next morning. That should sum up my impression on this game. To be more clear,... Read the review »



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About the Author
CitizenArcane's avatar
Nathaniel Berens
Staff Writer

Comments

Advie Advie
Jun 19, 2012

“one brutally unforgiving puzzle” sounds very nice :p ... but seriously i love review it is great and makes me feel good that the my number one on list Adventure Turned out to be something worthy .. i will get hold of it by tomorrow as much far.

talkshow talkshow
Jun 19, 2012

I pre-ordered it on GOG and NOW I MUST PLAY! Smile

chrissie chrissie
Jun 19, 2012

Having loved the demo I bought the game so loved reading such a great & positive review! I’m not a great lover of retro graphics but anything produced with a great story, good voice-acting, humour & thoughtful puzzles, that can immerse me in the first 20 mins is always a winner i.e. this game & everything else that Wadget Eye either develops or produces!

supaplex supaplex
Jun 20, 2012

I really don’t know what puzzle the reviewer is referring to as being very difficult. I didn’t have any problems with any of the dialogue puzzles. I’m very curious about this. Is it the telephone puzzle or the very last one? I passed the former in one try and the latter didn’t take very long either.

Tramponline Tramponline
Jun 20, 2012

Yes, I agree. The review is a great read. Only concerning this particular dialog puzzle, Nathaniel seems to have missed what Bennet has to say. Which makes out of “endless possible fail states” endless opportunities to continue.
But to be fair here, I was beta testing Resonance, playing it 6 - 7 times and every time around I found new stuff, nuances, subtle hints.
The unforgiving puzzle is very likely Juno Labs pin puzzle: Right click is your friend, as is pen & notepad. But I’m a sucker for hard puzzles.
Thank you for a great review! I enjoyed the read very much.

Castledoque
Jun 21, 2012

A great game! And with an excellent in-built hint-system that gives only a slight nudge to the right direction without spoiling the solution.
I’m also not sure which was the difficult dialogue puzzle. I can’t say I had much trouble with any of them.

after a brisk nap
Jun 21, 2012

Just finished it. Wow! I haven’t seen anything like that since… Gemini Rue. Adventure games this good are few and far between.

I bet the difficult dialog puzzle referred to is the phone tracing one. If you passed it in one go, that must have been pure luck, since the hints for that one are downright misleading.

CitizenArcane CitizenArcane
Jun 21, 2012

Nathaniel Berens here: Since this seems to be a topic of much discussion: yes, the puzzle I mention having so much trouble with was the phone tracing puzzle. The hints sent me in the wrong direction and I ended up taking more time than I’d care to admit to finish it. It hardly ruined the game for me, but I felt that the fact that I was stumped for so long on it was worth noting.

supaplex supaplex
Jun 22, 2012

When I played the game the moment Bennet provides hints on how to approach the phone conversation I was a bit distracted either by something on my other monitor or something on my phone and as a result I paid no attention to his hints. So when I picked my dialogue choices I approached them as logically as I could and as a result I passed it on my very first try. I don’t know if the hints are misleading or not, but I found the puzzle very logical.

Castledoque
Jun 22, 2012

Usually I’m very bad at conversation puzzles, meaning I generally have to go through them 5 or 6 times, but in the case of this phone conversation I tried to follow Bennet’s hints as best I could and I actually passed it on my first try. Funny thing is, when the guy on the other end of the phone hang up, I expected Bennet to tell me I would have to call again. Imagine my surprise when he actually said he had managed to trace the phone!

Iznogood Iznogood
Jun 23, 2012

A good review for an excellent game!

When i read the review, i was a bit sceptical, there has been some games here that got good reviews, but disappointed me when i played them, but this was not the case here, it really is an excellent game.

It took me a while to get use to the whole STM and LTM thing, but once i got it, it added that extra thing to the game, and im almost surprised no one has thought of it before.

Oh and that phone tracing puzzle, i dont really see why it should take anyone that long to solve, but i guess once you are stuck in the wrong track, anything becomes difficult Smile
Personally i followed the hints and got it on second try. There are certainly far more challenging puzzles in the game.

marcd2011 marcd2011
Jun 25, 2012

i managed the phone trace conversation on the third attempt, and each time I failed I knew i’d gone wrong because i’d chosen something that didn’t feel like the correct thing to say next. Bennet gives you good enough advice to put you on the right track, and the character on the phone’s answers tell you when you should be changing tactics, so i think it could only take a long time if you didn’t understand it.

after a brisk nap
Jun 26, 2012

Alright, let me just repeat what I said on another forum. (Here be SPOILERS!)

Vince explained the puzzle: “You are supposed to use aggressive options (avoiding the ones that piss him off too much or make him hang up right away) until his mood changes. [...] After two questions (I think) he says something indicating that you’re wearing his patience down and you have to switch back to aggressive.”

OK, I get it, and I thought that was what I was doing: Every time I said something aggressive, he would immediately go on the defensive and be like “No.. n-no! I never meant… it wasn’t supposed to be like this!” And I would take that as my cue to switch to the interrogative mode. And there his answers would always be much more confrontational, so I would switch back to aggressive straight away, alternating each time. And that seemed to work (he would stay on the line), but then at the end of the call it wouldn’t be enough. I guess I didn’t push him with enough aggressive statements before switching to interrogation and asking one of the relevant questions?

In order to solve the puzzle, you actually have to stick with each approach for a couple of questions before switching, even though he immediately gets meek and defensive in response to aggressive lines and confrontational in response to interrogative lines (which, according to Bennett’s instructions, should be the time to switch; that’s why I said the hints are misleading).

What makes it so hard, though, is that this strategy seems to work. He doesn’t hang up until you’ve run out of acceptable options. So it feels like you’re doing everything right and trying every available option, but the puzzle just refuses to let you through.

Interplay Interplay
Jun 27, 2012

Just finished the game and thought it was great.  What I think is brilliant about this game is the overall gameplay mechanic, involving the long term memory, the short term memory, and the character swapping.  Point and click adventure games tend to be easy because you can generally just resort to trial-and-error combining of inventory objects and/or dialogue choices and luck into the right choice.  This is usually made even easier by having a limited number of locations available initially with a limited number of hotspots.  And thus, you linearly progress through a game without much difficulty.

This game is totally different.  After an extended intro, you are opened up into a map where all game locations are open.  You have multiple characters which multiple your possible interactions with the many hotspots.  And there is no way you can just luck into progressing in the game through just clicking through every dialogue choice.  You have to logically consider what you would want to talk to a character about and add that object to the short term memory.  Anyway, when you add up all the variables and possibilities, there is no way you can just click your way through the game.  You have to logically think about the situations, and all of this makes the game much more challenging and enjoyable.  I would love to see this game mechanic used again so we can avoid more dreadfully easy Telltale-style adventures. 

(As an aside, before reading the comments, I assumed the “brutally unforgiving puzzle” was getting the blueprints.  What a great, extended puzzle that was!)

Export Export
Jun 29, 2012

Absolutely love this game. One of my favourite stories in gaming. I did find the phone tracking puzzle a bit annoying but only because it didn’t have particularly defined parameters, kind of like in a stealth game when you don’t have a real definition of “visible” and “hidden”.

Anyway, I really couldn’t recommend this game more. It’s probably my favourite game in the genre for the blend of intelligent, mature storytelling, intuitive and smart puzzles, and a great sense of pace with little to no pixel hunting or mindlessly backtracking and trying every item on every object.

By contrast, TLJ is great for its unusual atmosphere but is poor in terms of puzzles and replayability. This is more like Broken Sword or Gabriel Knight in that’s it’s like a great book with good puzzles in, but I think these puzzles are a lot more natural, fun and challenging without having insanely obscure and weird.solutions.

Shane Stevens Shane Stevens
Jun 30, 2012

Someone pointed out the glowing review of Resonance over at AdventureGamers so I thought I’d stop by and say a big THANK YOU to Nathaniel and to all of you wonderful players for enjoying our game.

It was a long 5 years but I don’t regret any of the sleepless hours I spent doing all of the character art, animations, and weird GUI ideas Vince could think of.  Fortunately we managed to put together something fun in the end.

Thanks again!

-Shane

Peter254 Peter254
Jul 9, 2012

It was a good game, but I’m not convinced it’s as good as I was made to think. Tedious puzzles (as opposed to clever) thanks to inventory AND character switching, plus a large middle chunk of story that goes absolutely nowhere. Of course, what made me like the game was the brutally tragic twist in the story’s final third, and the moral quagmire that follows. I just wish the first two thirds of the game were more like that.

PadanFain
Jul 15, 2012

I have actually played the game. And it has bad puzzles (badly designed, and also boring), a terrible user interface (I have to go through five clicks to do anything at all? Every single time!), bad pacing (very very boring first third, and somewhat interesting second and third), a cliche and mostly predictable story and completely uninteresting characters.

As Peter254 mentioned, there is an unexpected turnaround at about two-thirds of the game. But the turnaround is identical to the one in Heavy Rain. Which, as you know, has been out for about two and a half years.

There are at least two adventures in the last month that are MUCH better than Resonance, but have somehow received (comparatively) much worse reviews.

after a brisk nap
Jul 15, 2012

Well, that’s your opinion. Most others who’ve played the game don’t agree with you.

I would argue that most of the puzzles are very well designed: challenging, but with all the necessary hints hidden somewhere close by. And there’s a lot of variety between them, not the over-reliance on one type of puzzle that a lot of games suffer from.

I found the story totally engaging from the start of the (very convincing) intro video. The vignettes with each character are well designed to get to know them and solve some meaningful task.

It certainly doesn’t take five clicks to do “anything”: most actions require a single mouse click, or a drag-and-drop movement.

PadanFain
Jul 15, 2012

@nap, yes it is my opinion. And since my opinion is better than yours, that ends the argument.

But seriously,

Everything I said about the game is true. And I’ve played at least a dozen other adventure games in the last year alone, so I know what I’m talking about. But I play them for fun, and disregard the hype/cult status of any game I play.
I am guessing that most people who did give a very high review to the game, have had some part in the development (either beta testing, advice or similar) - since it seems that the game was developed with contact from the community.

I will not say anything more about the story, but any more film/reader savvy player will instantly see where most of the plot is going.

As for the interface, you know very well that, while there may not be “clicks” involved, there are “sliding screens” involved. Which is even more irritating, since you have to go through the sliding animation every time. Clicks would be more bearable.

after a brisk nap
Jul 16, 2012

If you don’t like it you don’t like it, fair enough. But to think that just because it didn’t appeal to you, no one else can have liked it on its merits, so all the good reviews and positive word of mouth must be because everyone else is biased, that you’re the only objective person on the internet… that’s a bit irrational.

And “everything you said about the game” is either completely subjective, utterly unsubstantiated, or inaccurate (like the bit about it taking five clicks to do anything). It’s not possible to “prove” that the puzzles aren’t dull, but it’s clear from the feedback that most players found them non-trivial but doable, it’s easy to demonstrate that they have a lot of variety, and it’s possible to show how most of the challenges and clues have been worked into the environment and the story fairly organically. (One good example of that would be the Antevorta hacking puzzle in Ray’s vignette.)

So unless you can articulate and back up some more specific criticisms, I’ll take your “everything about this game sucks!” to mean nothing more than “I just didn’t like it, OK?”

Hanged
Aug 5, 2012

Sorry, but I think this review is blatantly biased - so much so that it made me register and comment Smile. Resonance is a pretty fine game and had it gotten a low score, I’d probably have defended it, but to give it so much praise is ridiculous compared to, say, the Eye of Satinav or Lost Horizon reviews.

The story has some nice ideas, but it’s often naive and convoluted, in that ambitious-amateur kind of way. The naivety is ok most of the time, but it gets annoying when the game tries to be smart or deep (the clich├ęd childhood trauma backstory is especially irritating in this regard). I didn’t mind all this while playing, thinking that if I tried to write an indie game, I’d probably make the same mistakes. But when I see how much praise it’s getting, it just doesn’t seem fair.

I liked the twist in the vault though. It was partly predictable, but still managed to surprise by how it was executed. Some bold and clever writing there.

MoonBird MoonBird
Mar 16, 2013

No subtitles in intro and only partial voice acting in the game—> Quit & uninstall

rjk rjk
Oct 23, 2013

I think the game is very very good but not as great as the review pictured it. Some of it’s weaknesses’ been mentioned in the comments above me. I’ll try to address some of them.

I don’t like the achievements idea, which making you focus on doing some things “the right way” instead of simply doing it, distracts you from the story and weakens the atmoshpere. I also see no point in playing the same adventure game for few times in a row just to get all the achievements (by the way I got 31 on my 1st play). But that’s a really minor problem.

Puzzles were great for me. Very naturally integrated. And though definetely not easy, not a single one of them can be called “too hard” or stupid.

Writing is also very good for a video game. Maybe plot isn’t that hole-free, but I like the attitude. Instead of being pretentious as most Hollywood movies and mainstream games are, it presents the deal in natural and believable way. That’s something I really admire. The thing in writing I’ve been missing a little is some more expanded dialogues, like in Monkey Island.

I completely don’t mind retro graphics, nor the lack of voice-acting in most of the game. I think the user interface is good too.

I don’t know why I haven’t given the game higher rating, like 4.5. For some reasons I feel it’s missing a tad of something. I’m not sure what exactly that is. Maybe some emotion or originality. Consider my 4.0 rating harsh but honest. It still has my big recommendation.

Thanks Vince Twelve for making such a good game.



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