Horror Games Week 2012 Day 1: Reperfection Vol. 1 (PC)
Christmas time, for some people horror time...at least with shopping and some family fights. So why not delve into our new special week which is all about horror games? Think Halloween 2012 Special Week, but without the comedy and happiness.
Starting with Tinnitus Games' Reperfection Volume 1 we have a contender for original ideas and presentation in the form of a comic with time-travel adventure gameplay.
Father loses his loved ones in an accident, but he is given the ability to go back in time by looking into dead people's eyes, and prevent the future tragedy.
Moving images and people
The game is a mix of visual novel and adventure game. By moving from one comic book scene to another it looks as something quite unique, even if one can't shake the feeling that it's nothing more than going from one location to another. Still simply clicking on a picture to just be in that place is a pretty unique way of playing an adventure game. The only problem is that it's not possible later to switch between the pages or all adjacent pictures, which would have made it a bit easier to navigate through the story.
Puzzles are not of a very creative variety: many are solved like in so many other adventure games by picking up and using the right item for the right situation. This classic (and some would even say outdated) approach to game design may offer adventure game fans something to think about, but as the solutions are usually very simple and the only difficulty is to find the items (there's no hotspot key), this slows down the action a bit.
A day like any other...or the day before again and again
Still the time-travel plot, which is also very much like Groundhog Day with a more depressing tone, gives the player an opportunity to try out different things and see what happens in the future. For example, there are quite a few ways to make Ben's wife stay at home and not take the car, and each decision has consequences later on in how she reacts to and feels about him. These are only minor changes and don't affect the overall story, but they make the player think about his actions, something the trial-and-error nature of adventure games usually shy away from.
As has already been mentioned, jumping from one comic scene to another sounds like a promising concept and it works to a certain degree. The only problem is that the gameplay requires the player to do the same things all over again, like looking into people's eyes or picking up key items. Granted, this is all part of the story, but when hints to story progression or puzzle solving are rare, it gets quite annoying to revisit the same places and listening to the same dialogues, not to mention that there aren't that many places to visit as the choices where to go are limited. It would have been much better if one could jump without further ado to certain branches of the story.
Some parts of the game also don't make it clear how the player should act, like when driving a car in a certain way, which suffers from some control issues. It also doesn't help that the game saves automatically, which means that if the player makes a mistake, he has to go through the same texts again. This might work with a longer game like Heavy Rain, but is detrimental to the flow of episodic content done this way.
Unfortunately the story and characters themselves are a bit too clichéd and don't offer anything original. Some parts don't add up when a story about murders is interwoven. It offers enough excitement, twists and turns, but overall the storytelling is not handled in subtler ways. Especially how the family is introduced is very much like Heavy Rain's approach in that it tries too hard to make the player feel sympathy for characters he doesn't even know. Only later does he get snippets of information about their private lives, something which is quite a nice touch as it's not as straightforward as so many other time-travel stories.
Going back to the past to change events is also the most intriguing part when playing/reading Reperfection. As more and more people's lives get involved and changed, Ben finds himself in a predicament of a time loop so that whatever he does only makes things worse. Without spoiling too much, the game succeeds in making the player feel totally helpless at some point, the inevitability of things to happen being more interesting than the characters and main story.
Presented in glorious 2D
The artistic style of the black-and-white comic book look is sure pretty, the music and sound effect additionally create more than enough tension and sadness. Only at times does the game again try to pull at the heart strings of people just by using these devices, as if it would be enough to make the player feel all these things by just listening to the music and looking at sad pictures. It certainly works at the beginning and in some scenes, but after a while it also gets a bit repetitive and loses some of its power to evoke real feelings. Voice acting is also absent, which on the one hand avoids the pitfalls of players not being satisfied with how certain characters sound and on the other hand making the game more like a story the player has to read for him or herself.
A page-turner or a book-closer?
Reperfection Volume 1 is an interesting experiment to fuse the visual novel art style with adventure game puzzles. It succeeds in the presentation with a great soundtrack and amospheric drawings. Puzzle design doesn't offer anything original for long-time fans of the genre, so do the story and characters lack memorable scenes or anything particularly new.
Still the general concept of time-travelling with an emphasis on tragedy offers a gaming experience unlike few other games. It will be interesting to see in what direction the next volume goes and how some threads in the current episode are taken up and unravelled.
Only the playtime of less than 3 hours for advanced players (and that's only because of some unnecessary repetitive scenes) is a letdown with a price of 7,99 EUR. But then again a comic book is also not the cheapest medium to buy, and here the reader/player can even be an active part of the storytelling process.