Games Convention Special
Developer: House of Tales
Release Germany: 2Q2007
Overclocked - A Story of Violence
A preview by MaryScots 9th September 2006
Hands up, please: who of you has already seen the movie Memento? Ok, thanks that would be quite a number of you. And who did understand the story at once and I mean, in correct order, which means backwards? Well? Yeah, I see some of you are taking their hands down again. Dont worry, youre not alone. Because even though I watched the film in close concentration without company and also having had the receiver off the phone, I have to admit that some details escaped my attention until I used the hidden feature and re-played the DVD in wrong order, namely forwards. Confused? I can relate to that.
But now it gets even better! What if you could play an adventure game that does both telling the story in correct order from today until in a few days as well as the wrong way around from yesterday until a few months past? That doesnt work, you say? Yes, it does namely in Overclocked, the current project by German developers House of Tales. At this years Games Convention we were allowed to take a closer look at one part of the 3rd-person point & click adventure, while Martin Ganteföhr, who came up with this seemingly complicated story, explained some details about the gameplay.
Lets start with the story, though. First for the part from today until in a few days and the first of six characters in total, which we will control in Overclocked: as combat psychiatrist with the US Army, David McNamara took care of soldiers, who had been severely traumatised by battle action. Ever since he quit, he had to suffer from his own choleric outbursts and as if that wasnt enough already, his marriage is going down the drain, too. All in all not the best premises apparently to master the challenge the forensic hospital on Staten Island approaches him with. There, five young people are currently taken care of, all of whom were found somewhere in the City of New York and each was screaming and totally horrified but without any memories or knowledge of where they actually were at the time. Specialised in forensics, McNamara now has to find out who they are and what had happened to them. Session by session, he carefully helps them to regain their memories through hypnosis, taking them into their past one step at a time. During these therapy sessions we take on the part of the respective patient and play his/her story backwards into their past, which provides McNamara with important clues he can use in order to conduct his own research even outside the clinic. With that I have also covered the part from yesterday until a few months past to some extent. But while working with these young people David McNamara will have to find out that his own fate seems to be interwoven with theirs in a mysterious way and that the solution to this puzzle might endanger himself, too.
With a complex story like this, nobody needs complicated controls on top of that. To be honest, I had almost expectet an unusual kind of the latter, when I first received some vague information on what this game would be about. But House of Tales stay true to themselves and classic as far as this aspect is concerned, in other words, everything is done by mouse point & click. As for the puzzles in Overclocked, there should be something for everybody examining and interacting with hotspots, inventory- and object-based puzzles, mechanical ones and also those involving dialogues. This time, a lot of hotspots will offer various options presented as icons in a context menu of sorts. Lets take a door for example, where you will be given the choice between listen, open or look at. In obvious contrast to House of Tales previous game, dialogue topics will now be shown as icons and consistent with the subject of the story, a lot depends on how you approach the patients; i.e. whether you instantly start the session by clicking the pendulum-icon or else first ask the patient how he or she feels and through this try to gain their trust and motivate their will to cooperate. Although, I have yet to experience hypnosis, I imagine it quite like it has been worked out here. While playing the patient we can hear the psychiatrists voice, do what he suggests and answer him. Aside from that, we can vertically split the screen to control the doctor in one half and his patient in the other.
House of Tales did take seriously what has been criticised about their last adventure The Moment of Silence, meaning for instance that on mouse-over exits from the scenes will now be marked by an arrow, which sends the respective character directly into the next screen. An interesting effect here is that the change of location looks just like in a movie we will see our character exiting the current location and a second later watch him entering the next as if we had been waiting for him there. Moreover, dynamic use of the camera with changes in perspective, zooms and cinematic pans lends spatiality to the pre-rendered 2D-backgrounds supporting the mood and the atmosphere in the same way the new real-time light-/shadow system does. Transitions into the past when McNamara hypnotises his patients and with that the player changes his role come across especially dramatic. The patients arrival in his own memories is accentuated in terms of colour, at first everything appears to be black and white or sepia toned only to slowly take on more natural colours. For the first time in a 2,5D adventure game all of these effects will be executed in real-time. I was also deeply impressed by the detailed textures, whose effect often is easily underestimated, even though they are very important for the atmosphere. Currently, the team is working feverishly on the 3D characters animation, again by means of motion-capturing. What I have seen, did already look very natural and supple but thats all that can be said about it for now.
All in all, House of Tales does put a lot of emphasis on staying close to reality and from what I have seen and learned I am convinced that once again we can look forward to a very special adventure based on a strong story.
Personally speaking, I anticipate the first hypnosis session planned for Q2 2007.