When you think of adventure games, series like Roger Wilco, Leisure Suit Larry, King’s Quest, and Monkey Island might come to mind. However, it seems like major releases of adventure games are few and far between now. However, Dreamcatcher and The Adventure Company want to change that with Still Life.
In Still Life, you play the role of Victoria McPherson and her grandfather Gustav McPherson. Victoria is an FBI agent looking for a serial killer in the bowels of Chicago. Each crime scene gets progressively worse, and Victoria’s frustration is getting higher. She goes to her dad’s to celebrate Christmas and discovers in their attic that her grandfather was a detective following a string of murders very similar to the ones that she has been trying to solve. You follow both characters, finding clues and attempting to solve the murders before the next one happens.
The graphics of the game are excellent. The backgrounds are highly detailed with little details all around. The contrast between the scenes at a filthy murder investigation compared to the clean FBI office is as different as night and day. Even the scenes set in the 1920’s reflect the locations and style of that time frame accurately. The backgrounds also mesh well with the characters in the game, although they do stick out from the background at times. Those with a HDTV are in luck because Still Live supports 720p.
The inventory and option screens change depending on which character you play. While playing Victoria, there is a high-tech feeling to the menus. While playing as Gustav, the menus have a wooden and rustic feeling to them. Although this wasn’t necessary, it was a nice touch.
Victoria and Gus move very naturally. Their movements while walking aren’t exaggerated, and they will bend down to pick up items. Sometimes they will move to a specific spot to examine an object, but it isn’t too distracting.
If there is any complaint about the graphics, they are a bit static. Other than the characters in a scene, there isn’t much movement at all. Because of this, the settings feel a bit less alive than they should.
Still Life has you hunting down a serial killer, so there is a lot of suspense throughout the game. The background music really adds to the suspense exponentially. The music is erie, almost making you wonder if there is something else going on, as if you are being watched. While the music during the scenes set during the 1920’s are a bit more upbeat, they still haunt you with their minor chords.
While the game does provide subtitles for each character, all of the dialogue is recorded. Victoria and the other major characters throughout the game are done well for the most part. The inflections made convey the right sense of emotion for the time. However, there are a few instances where there is some overacting. Also, Still Life earns its M rating for the dialogue alone, but the language feels a bit forced and unnatural.
Controlling Victoria and Gustav is rather simple. Moving them is done using the analog stick or D-pad. To perform an action, hit the A button, while B will cancel an action. X makes Victoria or Gustav run. Y opens up the inventory box and allows you to use items in the inventory.
Hitting the left trigger during a conversation will give a response related to the case, while the right trigger gives some small talk and non-case related material. The scheme is very simple but effective.
The game revolves around collecting evidence and getting information through conversations. This is done by walking Victoria or Gustav around. When you can interact with an object, an icon will appear. A wrench icon indicates that there is an action you can perform on that object. A “Q” shows up when you can talk to someone to get more information. The magnifying glass means that you can take a closer look at the icon. An open hand means you can grab something to take into your inventory, while a closed hand indicates you can use something in your inventory with the icon.
For an adventure title to be good, it has to have an involving and immersive storyline, and Still Life has it in spades. The interaction of the two characters makes you feel like you are almost playing two separate games. Still Life has the quality where you want to talk to the next person or find the next clue to see what happens next.
Victoria and Gustav both keep journal entries, so you can go back and take a look at previous discussions they’ve had with others, as well as get background information on other cases that are involved with the serial killer you are investigating. Also, you find documents that contain useful information which can be read at this screen as well.
Puzzles are contained within the game. While the puzzles aren’t exactly unique, they make sense through the game. For instance, a door that has been boarded shut needs to be opened. To do this, you must find an object to break the boards off. Some of you might have heard of the infamous “baking cookies” puzzle, but it makes sense with the game taking place around the Christmas holiday.
If there is any fault with the game is that it is a bit too easy since the icons show up where you need to interact with the environment. While some of these are a bit obvious, others are not easily seen and would have probably been missed if the icon didn’t magically show up.
Still Life has the problem that plagues most other adventure games like this. Once you have played the game, there really isn’t any reason to play it again. That is unfortunately the case with this game. There aren’t any bonus extras to unlock during the game.
However, the $20 price tag does make the sting a little less harsh. Those that have thirsted for a good adventure will be happy to find this gem of a game to add to their collection.