A Story about Violence
Release date: 10/2007
Developer: House of Tales
Game language: German
A review by slydos 21st October 2007
Overclocked! The title of this new adventure game by House of Tales initially made me doubt if it's the right game for me ... after all overclocking and tuning are the last refuges of a homosocial male community, maximizing their pleasure by increasing the performance of their computers in a 'dangerous', because possibly lethal way for their machines using almost 'secret society' knowledge. These ' technology heroes' know that they are living on the edge, always only one click away from the sudden death of their hardware. They know how to play this risky game! These 'tough guys' will surely claim this game title for themselves and as a 'frail woman' I ask myself, do I really possess the competence and understanding for this kind of 'fun'? But there's another turn of the screw. Overclocked is subtitled "A Story about Violence". Violence likewise belongs to the repertoire of dominant maleness concepts, it's so to speak the grail of maleness, and, as far as it doesn't affect official crime stats, is even accepted in many social fields according to the winner principle. The primarily addressed or feeling addressed target group is thus defined: young, technology-crazed men! What's about the rest of the world? Those who keep waiting - after studying the title and the unsettling cover - until the first testosterone fog lifted, can learn from the box blurb that it might be a bit different from what the keywords try to suggest ...
The story starts with the spectacular appearances of 5 young people at different places in the city of New York. They are deranged, armed and dangerous and get detained by the authorities in a seedy military hospital on Staten Island, the traditional landfill site of New York. Neither can their personal data be determined, nor the cause of their confusion, since they suffer from memory loss. The five are kept in prison-like cells, since it likewise cannot be found out if they are connected to a crime. This is the moment that our leading actor, David McNamara appears on the scene. He is a forensic psychiatrist and has to handle the cases on behalf of the government. First we only know about him that he is a trauma specialist, and has developed a special method to bring back memories to the patients. This method is debated by his colleagues, especially Dr. Young, who is now subordinated to him. The game begins in his room in Skyline Hotel in New York, 2 days after the first patient was found.
While we watch McNamara's investigations stepping chronologically forward, encouraging his patients to tell their stories with means of hypnosis and memory provoking impulses, their memory fragments are narrated backwards. These fragments have however rather causal than exact chronological links and leave gaps and discrepancies, which we cannot finally resolve even if we try to complement the missing information from the connecting points. McNamara stores this time reversed memory fragments of the young people on his PDA as datestamped recordings. They are novel and essential element of the narration structure and puzzle design of Overclocked at the same time. Although the players must subject themselves in their proceeding to a very linear game progress, the constant flash backs and time jumps pull them from their traditional forward-turned view. They form together with the likewise reverse running information about David's private life several parallel experience levels, so that finally the plot linearity almost provides the safe port in this mind boggling game and therefore is gratefully accepted by the players.
In turn the unusual narration mode of Overclocked deprives the gamers from the possibility of perceiving the story as a whole and of associating the effects of individual episodes with the context. Thus holes or logic errors are covered, because they are simply not noticeable due to fragmentation. For example police inspector Moretti tells us that the female patient in cell 2 was found on Friday, November 9th, while we must later in her recalls recognize that she was still another day later at the very place, that our psychiatrist is trying to locate.
Occasionally godfather coincidence must offer help in form of a life boat, so that we can achieve our goal. And you may notice a general contagious confusion, when Moretti asks the Doc in which hotel he is staying, already having asked him on the answering machine in his hotel room, how he likes the Skyline Hotel? Here the logical narrative coherences are not carefully enough elaborated.
The explosive story starts a little low geared, but becomes a really exciting thriller in the last two chapters at the latest, providing several surprises in the end.
The character profiles are even multidimensional in the supporting roles and make a large part of the game's fascination. Hardly any character is only shaped single-sided likable or dislikable, the characters change and one is eager to know, where that will lead. An identification with the playable characters is prevented by the very much ambivalent portrayal. Nobody is exactly trustworthy, neither the NPCs. Whether you look at David's lawyer and friend Terry, who 100% knows more than he tells, the ex-serviceman Ryker in the bar, never taking off his dark eyeglasses or even Miller, the waterproofed man without face.
But David McNamara asks the most riddles himself. A psychiatrist, whose private problems seem to outgrow himself? Does this only confirm the common prejudice or is more behind it? The more David quasi externalises his private and job problems by shifting them to his PDA, the players in this 3rd-person-game become external observers more than ever. If there's a possibility of still another increase in the aloofness of 3rd-person-perspective, Overclocked must be characterised in such a way. This aloofness perceptibly manifests in a physical renunciation, which permits barely any bodily needs except some short alcoholic intermezzos.
A word, which shows up time and time again in this connection in my considerations to this review, is: "male". Which seems to me no simple superficial topic by cleverly implanted issues, but also and especially by narrative style and character design. So the game's sub-sub-title could be the old Groenemeyer song or simply "What's a man like?". And thus not only ONE contemporary social issue is tackled, but 'subliminal' another one, which is also frequently discussed today.
Controlling characters - beside David McNamara we can control one of the 5 young patients in each flash back - is done by point&click. Actually we must not really navigate David or the others to some screen area, it suffices to click or doubleclick on one of the scene exits or hotspots to limit the walking intervals to a minimum. If you leave scenes in the direction you came from, often additional views of the same area become accessible before one can finally exit the location.
Spacebar shows all relevant hotspots and scene exits. Hotspots are indicated by a changing cursor symbol. A left click opens an icon-context-menu with 1-3 selectable action icons. Dialogues are likewise led by icon selection and open a close-up with the interlocutor. The inventory is always visible at the bottom of the screen except during cutscenes. Inventory objects can be manipulated or used by icon context menu.
The most-utilised object, David's PDA, offers 3 different functions: telephone conversations with one of the stored numbers, playing audio files and an email function. As soon as an object is taken to the inventory, a new telephone number is added or an email is received, a brief icon display in the right upper screen corner informs us about this action.
Esc opens the main menu, where we can save and load savegames or access the option menu, in order to adjust sound and graphics settings or switch the sub-titles on or off. You can add your own short texts to your savegames. Screenshots and game data like time and location are automatically appended. When it comes to loading, the latest savegame is on top. If you exit the game, what happens without delay, and want to start again, you first encounter the HoT-start-menu, which only allows to load the last saved game. If you want to use an earlier saved game, you must go through the loading procedure of the last savegame first. The start menu also offers options to adjust special graphics and sound settings to enhance performance.
Overall, handling is easy and needs no familiarization. A look into the well structured, colored-illustrated 40-sided manual gives answers to all questions about installation and handling as well as general strategy hints.
Overclocked ran error free on my computer. Neither performance problems nor interfering technical bugs showed up.
The 5 New York main locations and approx. 45 prerendered scenes are realistic and detailed. The continuous rain and certain music and sound effects strain your nerves at the latest after 2 hours and intensify the unpleasant November depression atmosphere. The hospital, as 'jokester' Dr. Young remarks "in Romanian style of the 60's", the bleak cells in cold neon light and memory flash backs arising from darkness in style of colour retouched black&white films alltogether reflect such a black mood that even Gene Kelly would have a hard time to perform a merry puddle dance. Dark clouds and wafts of mist let the tiny statue of liberty in the distance peek through from time to time, however always quickly swallowing the lady again, as if they want to say: "Enough hope refuelled, now get back into limbo again!"
In contrast to the scene graphics our 3D-characters are only of mediocre quality. Actually it's no big annoyance, when they move rather unrealistically or miss facial animations, but something else is annoying: they don't resemble their counterparts in the external cutscenes at all! Those are different people! A little confusion rises with the presentation of some internal video scenes, which are not first choice either, but at least as far as similarity is concerned, are in one line with the ingame characters.
Movie feeling arises whenever there are fluent camera moves and smooth animations. The split screen technique is nice motion art too. The screen is divided into 2 parts by a vertical line. During a phone call for example you can watch the two conversation partners simultaneously in each half of the screen or David's therapy sessions are displayed in one window and the other half shows the recollection of the patients. Noises such as footsteps on different surface correspond not always to the graphic look and once I even had to laugh, when the two physicians listened towards cell 2 for the cries of a man instead of the woman in there! For the rest the ambient sound such as rain, wind etc. is adequate. The design of the main menu looks nice with polaroids showing wavering light cones just like the chapter graphics featuring electrical synapses.
The dubbing artists solved their tasks very expressive and convincing. But it should be noted that there are some occasional, incongruous dialogue pauses, especially before the apparently subsequently inserted, somewhat stand-alone and too loud sighs.
Beside object-/inventory puzzles and some decoding or mechanical puzzles, the predominant part of the Overclocked tasks consists of correct memory reconstruction and selecting the correct means to achieve this. The degree of difficulty ranges from very easy to medium, while only one fairly hard pure memory puzzle belongs to the medium kind. During remembering sessions we already know the necessary actions because we already have watched, what has happened at a chronologically subsequent timeframe. For selecting the correct recordings to nudge the patients' memory it's helpful, to keep in mind their sayings and thus forbear constant scanning and repeating of the audio recordings. To quit one of the various audio files, you only have to hit the ESC-key twice at any time during play-back. If you've selected the right memory fragment, this abort doesn't cause any harm and you can continue nevertheless. The short play time of around 10-12 hours is a result of the light degree of difficulty, small amount of puzzles as well as the little action scope and limited number of hotspots - particularly non-game-relevant hotspots. The gaming time of 20 hours indicated in the box blurb is set too high, even genre beginners won't need such long.
If one takes away the graphic shortcomings and little contentwise contradictions, an ambitious story remains with unique narrative structure and fascinating characters, which we will surely remember after years. Too many puzzle challenges were sacrificed to the fluent transport of narration - a step toward casual adventure games or point&click movies. Too slim for my taste to be the real big-time.
Total rating: 82%
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 2000/XP/Vista
- 1,3 GHz processor
- Graphic card with shader model 1.1
- ca. 1,5 GB free hard disk space
- 256 MB RAM (Windows 2000/XP)
- 512 MB RAM (Windows Vista)
- Sound card
- Keyboard, mouse
- Windows XP
- Pentium IV 3,6 GHz
- 2 GB RAM
- 48x DVD-ROM
- NVidia GeForce 7600GS 256 MB
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Copyright © slydos for Adventure-Archiv, 21st October 2007