Saturday, 27 August 2016

Whiskey Reviews: Dead Synchronicity

Info:
Platform: PC
Release Date: 10 April 2015
Developer: Fictiorama Studios
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Where to get it: Steam, Here
Price: £14.99 (Steam)

Apologies for the late post this week. Today's another look at the work I did while at Pixel Judge and was the game I reviewed before Guns, Gore & Cannoli, and Solarix which I posted a couple of weeks prior. Three terrible games at the start of a new job and I was very much worried about the fourth. Thankfully a bunch of quality games came along not long after and you'll get to see those reviews in the coming weeks. For now, enjoy another brief glimpse into my pain while I subjected myself to the horrors of a bad point and click adventure for the sake of honest review scores.

(As usual, the images used in the review have been lost time time and bad record keeping, got to have space to install all those games! Enjoy the wall of text!)

The Case: Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is the product of a small indie team and a pile of Kickstarter cash. It has a lot to live up to against classic point and click adventures and the recent Telltale re-imagining of the genre, so lets take a LOOK AT GAME and see how well Dead Sync holds up to scrutiny. The Trial: The most striking aspect of Dead Sync, visible from the moment you boot up the game is the art style, kind of a mix between cel-shaded and faux-paper cut outs that manage to make every single character look flat and uninteresting. The backgrounds meanwhile are beautifully painted and detailed; they manage to convey the nature of the world better than any Fallout texture or dimly lit ruin but stand in contrast to the characters themselves who look massively out of place. 

The introduction sequence does little to endear the game to you, with a voice repeating “wake up” while the main character makes Solid Snake level comments against a black background. Thankfully the voice over can be skipped in favour of reading the text displayed on screen but it's not a good sign for a story heavy game when you're hitting the skip button within the first five minutes. This tone carries on throughout the introduction; once awake Michael has a talk with Rod, ostensibly to set up Michael's motives and nudge you in the right direction but actually to give you more practice in skipping dialogue as Rod comes back not once but twice after saying he's leaving to provide more badly acted dialogue. 

 By later he means as soon as that line is over. Near the beginning of the game, many of the characters you meet are just as grating, with each having a little tic that feels engineered to annoy; The Hunter's out of place “dude”, the homeless man's spitting, the little boys whispering etc. Characters feel very one-note, not entirely uncommon for the genre but poorly disguised in Dead Sync, if you don't provide them with the solution necessary to progress their dialogue feels less like personality and more like a ham-fisted hint system. Sadly, experiencing the rest of the game might be more than a chore – two game breaking bugs had me restart the whole thing three times. I actually wrote a macro for my mouse to just automatically rapidly click through the entire intro because I got fed up of hearing it. When not broken however the gameplay is pretty easygoing. Holding the space bar will highlight any points of interest on screen and double clicking an area transition allows you to instantly move to the next area without having to sit through a walk animation, this alone feels like the best innovation brought to the genre since the SCUMM engine. 

Rod's wife appears to be a clone of him. The story meanwhile focuses on clichéd amnesiac Michael and the state of the world after the Great Wave, an event that decimated civilization (or did it?) and heralded the arrival of “blankheads” i.e. severe amnesia and the “dissolved” a disease that makes people's skin melt. All of these concepts are thrown at you with little to no explanation initially but talking to people around the refugee camp can yield some answers, and this being a point and click game means you're probably going to ask everyone everything whether you want to or not.Without spoiling too much, Michael escapes the refugee camp on a quest to learn the truth about himself and the Great Wave while gathering various mcguffins either to rub against other mcguffins or for plot purposes. To be fair, you do bare witness to a couple of fairly disturbing scenes along the way but their effect is lessened by the bad voice acting and character art style that makes the violence in South Park look realistic. 

Something you'll ask yourself constantly. Redeeming Fictiorama is their wonderful musical score. Alternating between low droning and plinking organ sounds conveys the dull, oppressive atmosphere and constant danger better than the gameplay ever can. It isn't a bad listen outside of the game either, managing to be pleasing out of context and perhaps all the better for it. 

The Verdict: Dead Sync is a victim of its own success, or lack thereof. With better funding and better talent the game might have become a stand-out for the genre thanks to dealing with some serious themes while remaining easy to play. Sadly hammy voice-overs, dragging conversations and characters that are aesthetically displeasing are all sticking points preventing the game from achieving even mediocrity. 

Case Review: 
+Atmosphere: The background art is lovely and grimy, single-handedly propping up the dingy atmosphere. 
+Sound: The musical score is short but sweet. []Indie: It's a game from a normal indie studio funded by the fans. 
[]It exists: It's a thing and it's real. 
-It exists: It's a thing and it's real, sadly. 
-Boring: The biggest sin for a game, it's not engaging. 

Score: 1.5/5 “Go play Monkey Island instead.”