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Still Life - A New Game from Microids


Mark E
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Those of you who don't know of Microids, they're the company that published Syberia and its sequel.

 

Coming out soon from the company will be their new mature-audience adventure game, Still Life. Any adventure game is good news, but coming from the Syberia company my hopes are going to be pretty high for this one.

 

Here's the blurb from http://www.stilllife-game.com/index.aspx

 

Victoria McPherson is a brilliant young FBI agent who's investigating a serial murder case. The body count is now at five and she has no real leads, nothing but a mountain of circumstantial evidence and a boss who's breathing down her neck.

 

In order to take a break from it all, she decides to visit her father in the suburbs. Since it's close to the Christmas holidays, she and her father talk about their family, including Victoria's grandfather, who used to be a private investigator. This discussion leads Victoria to read one of her grandfather's old case files, a file which reveals an uncomfortably high number of similarities between a seventy-five year old case in Europe and the current string of killings in Chicago...

 

I looooove games centered around criminal investigations, and this one seems very neat. If you go to the official website I linked to above you can find teaser trailers, some nice wallpapers, and a link to the demo. I haven't tried the demo yet, but will post impressions once I do.

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Took a swing through the demo, the puzzles aren't terribly hard or anything but it was very enjoyable.

 

The interface is a bit of a pain to get used to. For those who try the demo, you have to be close enough to a hotspot (like, say, a pool of blood) to cause the 'hand' icon to appear in the upper left. When it does, you can then access the inventory with a right-click and use an item from your inventory on it.

 

Graphics are very nicely done and I love, love, love what I've seen of the tone of the game. It's got a very macabre look and definitely some influence from Se7en to be seen. Voice acting's not bad. Lead character's a bit snarky at times, but in a good way. Very amusing Silence of the Lambs reference too.

 

The story definitely made me anxious to go further and I was genuinely disappointed when the demo was over. I'll be anxiously awaiting this one when it releases in a couple of months.

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Graphics are very nicely done and I love' date=' love, love what I've seen of the tone of the game. It's got a very macabre look and definitely some influence from Se7en to be seen.

 

The story definitely made me anxious to go further and I was genuinely disappointed when the demo was over. I'll be anxiously awaiting this one when it releases in a couple of months.[/quote']

 

 

 

Indeed glad to know that I'm not the only one who fet it was se7en-ish this does look like it will me some fun to play when it comes out. Game play wise reminds me of the old kings questg or leasuire suit larry games with the piont and clicking.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok, finally got around to downloading and trying the demo. I must be an idiot but I can't seem to find the other evidence points in the apartment. I've found the two bits of writing on the wall as well as two pools of blood. I'll have to look a little harder a little later tonight but I'm really enjoying what I've played of the game. It's due out on the Xbox 4/14 with no date set for the PC game for some reason (would much prefer the PC release).

 

My biggest complaint lies in the voice acting. The main protaganist is pretty good though some of her joke delivery is very stiff but some of the other characters like the black police officer outside is a little hammy. It's not terrible but it seems out of place in a gritty murder mystery setting (this kind of writing and acting would be spot on in something more light hearted like Syberia for instance.)

 

It's a definite purchase for me though regardless.

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I think the PC release is a simultaneous one, unless I'm mistaken.

 

That's the date I've seen floated around the 'net anyway.

 

The other piece of evidence is definitely a pain in the butt to spot, but it is there, just hard to suss out. I had to look it up myself because it's not exactly hidden, but it isn't flat-out obvious either. I find it interesting that people found the voice acting so off. I liked the main character but didn't have any major issues with the rest of them, except the coroner, who I did think went a wee bit over the top.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I think the PC release is a simultaneous one, unless I'm mistaken.

 

It seems as though the PC release has been pushed back to the beginning of May unfortunately. The Xbox version of the game is due this coming week. It ships 4/14 and will retail for the nice bargain price of 19.99! :rock

 

I'm hoping Microids at 1080i support for the game. They did so for their Xbox ports of Syberia and it's sequel I believe. I'll gladly pick up the box version of this for 20 bucks (10 bucks cheaper than the PC version). If it included 1080i support, that would be the icing on the cake.

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The whole upheaval with Microids and Ubisoft, etc, etc, has really put the release date for this title all over creation.

 

It's a definite that this game's now available in Europe. EB Games updated the release date for BOTH versions of the game to the first part of May. In addition to that, GameSpot has done similar. GameSpot, on the other hand, lists the PC version for tomorrow, and the X-Box version for May 16th. At this point, I think it's safe to say that this thing isn't going to be coming home until the start of May at the earliest.

 

Freakin' mess. The worst part is, nobody at the Official Forums can get an answer either since nobody on the forums is still with the company.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I checked around at a few EB's in my area Mark and they aren't recieving it until May 2nd. I'll have to wait a week or so, but that's ok. I'll be deep into Guild Wars anyway. Best to get the game then. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts though. Especially on how the voice acting is throughout (does it get more serious etc. etc.).

 

By the way Mark, I tried that "White Chamber" game you AIM's me the other day. Really digging it so far. I may upload it to the server and make it available for us few adventure fans on the forum. :tu

 

EDIT: Also, I found out the Xbox version will not include 1080i support, so PC version for me.

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Wow, isn't it odd that you aren't able to get it down in the States in your area? I've been following the threads on the game's official forums and the adventuregamers.com forums and nobody else seems to have tracked it down yet. Bizarre! Anyway, like I say, I'll be checking this out tomorrow!

 

By the way Mark, I tried that "White Chamber" game you AIM's me the other day. Really digging it so far. I may upload it to the server and make it available for us few adventure fans on the forum.

 

Ah, glad to see it, sorry I leapt on, shot that at you, then went again, it's been crazy busy here the last couple of days ;). Glad you're liking it, definitely worth playing through and trying to check out a couple of the endings. Shouldn't take too long, some shifty puzzles but nothing too difficult for class-A adventurers (although some mild pixel hunting). Oh, I should mention if you don't have up-to-date Divx codecs you can't see the hand-drawn animation opening and ending. I only mention because I managed to miss this the first time I played through :P.

 

We can move this to a separate thread in the PC area later on if the interest is there. I think Joey'd like it anyway. Hehe, I'd ask you about one scene that scared me but don't want to spoil anything ;).

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At $19.99, the audience is a bit larger

That's always good to hear Joel. Did you happen to give Syberia or it's sequel a try on the Xbox? I highly recommend the first which can be had in the $15-$20 range.

 

Divx codecs you can't see the hand-drawn animation opening and ending

Yep, thought it was odd so I ended up looking on the official forums and found the fix. Excellent work all in all. Though I wasn't initially high on the "anime" look of the character, that dissolved after getting more into the game.

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Currently on chapter 2 right now and I'm still not sure what to make of this game so far. The storyline's been good, but the voice acting is all over the map. Some characters are definitely voiced better than others (for some reason I really noticed what you were saying about Victoria's delivery this time around, Romier).

 

The switch between Chicago and Prague is a neat little storytelling device, and both eras look quite different. Chicago has a modern sleaze look, while Prague just looks like grime filtered through an almost sepia-toned quality to give it that flashback look.

 

So far the puzzles have been ranging from easy to not bad. The hardest have been a couple of combination locks that are straight out of the old school adventure game caveat of nobody having a proper lock of any kind. But I haven't cracked open a hint of any kind, so I'm pretty proud (there's a safe to open in Prague that required some canny thinking to get into; very pleased when I figured that one out).

 

One thing I like is that this game really wants you to be observant. A bunch of puzzles have hints or solutions to be found on other items or through careful examination (much like in the Resident Evil series, it pays to spend some time fiddling with the rotating of your inventory). One very cool puzzle has you switching between an old crime scene and a photograph of same, trying to spot any potential details that could further the investigation.

 

I'm withholding judgement on the story since I'm waiting to see it all tie together and haven't gotten too far into it yet. Interestingly, though the characters may be sketchy in the voice acting, I do appreciate all the little details. These characters don't seem like mannequins, they're real people - we hear about Detective Miller's love life and get tidbits into Victoria's past cases. This doesn't often happen in any game, so it's nice to see here.

 

The Se7en influences are quite strong in places. Those of you who are fans of that movie will see some definite influence in the cutscene that details what happened at Victoria's first crime scene. Very neat.

 

It lacks the whimsy of Syberia, to be sure, but Still Life has held my attention so far and I'm interested in seeing where it goes. It won't be winning a whole slew of awards, but it looks like a very solid outing for adventure game fans and at a very reasonable price. More to come as I delve deeper :).

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Talk about games that stir up mixed emotions.

 

On the one hand, Still Life has been an enjoyable adventuring experience. I have two chapters to go and things are starting to come together nicely, culminating in what I hope will be a satisfying resolution and climax.

 

But I have my reservations about this game, I have to say. Every chapter seems to have one unique 7th-Guest style puzzle that may or may not be well integrated into the gameplay. Typically most aren't, to be honest, although the lock-picking interface was very clever. Others such as the myriad locks are not so much, with ridiculous combinations and caveats. I actually had to do a bloody sliding block puzzle (which I amazingly managed to solve rather quickly, surprising since I'm usually lousy at them) of all things.

 

The actual puzzles in the game proper are not necessarily hard, but they are typically fun. There have been some nice ones such as getting into a particularly exclusive club or the excellent crime photograph puzzles (these are both unique and challenging without being frustrating).

 

Story-wise things have been picking up, although I'm not sure about some of the design decisions. It seems like I've spent a lot more time on the Gus/Prague sections though the Victoria/Chicago ones are frankly that much more interesting. There's not enough detective work for my liking, as I was sort of hoping for something a little more mystery-esque than I've gotten so far.

 

Still waiting to see how it pans out in the end, but I've been having mixed feelings on this, though overall it's been an enjoyable trip. But it's got its problems to be sure.

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Keep the comments coming Mark. I've enjoyed reading your thoughts so far on the game. I still plan on buying come May 2nd here. I'm very disappointed to hear you spend more time in the past than with the Victoria character. Despite some of the voice acting caveats, I enjoyed the atmosphere of that section in the demo.

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Yeah, the atmosphere is good, although some parts of the past sections are nicely done as well. The problem there is that to a certain extent we are told how that case ends so it seems odd playing through a flashback.

 

One thing I forgot to mention is the cookie puzzle. I will not say much more about it than to name it such, but suffice to say that it is probably the single worst puzzle in an adventure game since the infamous 'rent the motorcycle with maple syrup and cat fur' sequence from Gabriel Knight 3.

 

It's basically a complete trial and error mess (whereas most other puzzles give you enough information to sort out the answers if you're paying attention; let me reiterate that the game rewards you for keeping an eye on the details, which I like) that I just resorted to the walkthrough to solve. Honestly, life's too short to waste on something like that, and the basic design of the puzzle is outright idiotic to boot (nobody outside of an adventure game would ever write down a bloody recipe like that). :bh

 

Keep an eye out for that bit of genius when you're playing it through.

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Boy, I'll be interested to see reactions to the game's ending.

 

Finished it. So very mixed in my feelings on this game. The last puzzle was unique, but again there was pretty much zero by way of guidance in how to initially get it started.

 

This game's very short on instruction in some areas that could really use it, such as that effing cookie puzzle and the endgame one, although the endgame is not as annoying by half and actually pretty neat once you get the gist of how it works.

 

But boy oh boy, that ending. Not a total F-U, but enough of one given the situation with Microids now. Oh, and apparently the prelude game on the Still Life website (which I didn't play) fleshes out some of the character relationships in the game that really needed it. Not overly enamoured with the idea of using content that won't always be there to shore up holes or shortcomings in your main product.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Completed the game about 10 minutes ago (its almost 5am). Took me about 11 hours or so to finish it up and I'm just too tired to post some lengthy impressions. I will be doing so a little later today though since I'm anxious to start some discussion on the story (which is actually quite good).

 

A few things I did want to mention though; the ending was a big middle finger to the player in my opinion. The story builds up nicely, but in the end they withhold the reward that you have worked so hard to attain throughout your time with Still Life. It's just utterly cheap. I haven't felt like this since I beat Soul Reaver on the Playstation for the first time. (those who have completed that game will know exactly what I'm talking about.) What's worse is that they ask you to continue the adventure online and direct you to a website that hasn't been up for weeks now. :(

 

I had a love/hate relationship with the games puzzles (ie the gameplay since it is an adventure game). For every good logic based puzzle that is well implemented you get something that will have you wondering what the developers were the thinking. The cookie puzzle, as Mark noted, is the absolute worst offender of the bunch. The lockpick puzzle in the Prague scenario is no better IMO, and reeks of the same trial and error garbage that spawned the cookie "recipe" (I call it that very loosely). At the same time you get some really nice brain teasers like the finale of the sewer maze, the Chapel safe, and the picture slide puzzle in the Club that makes playing through the game completely worth it.

 

Also worth mentioning is that I found myself wanting to play through the Prague sections of the game moreso than anything involving Victoria. Gus was just a more likeable character to me, and his side of the story had a bit more seriousness and weight to it. Something Victoria's side lacked mainly due to her constant need to throw out quips and jokes (which got old rather quickly for me). It's given me the motivation to see out and play through "Post Mortem" which is a quasi-prequel to Still Life.

 

Anyway, I've said to much. I'll come back a little later today and give some theories on what happened and who's who in the game. I may sound as though I'm being very critical of the game, but for 20 dollars I highly recommend giving it a try if you enjoy a good point and click adventure game.

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