Resonance impresses with remarkable narrative, gameplay
In Resonance, developer Vince Twelve has created one of gaming’s more dazzling narratives. The game is a pleasure to play.
Resonance puts you in control of four characters thrown together in a science fiction setting to prevent world-wide disaster. A high-quality adventure game, Resonance has some of the best storytelling you’ll encounter on the PC. This is complemented by an interesting cast of characters, excellent 2D pixel work, great music and some unique game mechanics.
Resonance introduces Long Term and Short Term Memory (LTM and STM) as game mechanics. The first stores relevant information discovered throughout the course of the game. The STM is a limited inventory that lets the player store a reference to objects or people you encounter in the game. Both change memories into items that can be later accessed in conversations.
As Resonance progresses, the memory inventory is used in a number of clever ways that focus on making the player think about their surroundings in more ways than just what to click on. Not every game’s functionality meshes with its story, but Resonance’s does. The two functions evolve along with the story so that their use changes, but ludo-narrative harmony is maintained.
The only downside of the memory system, the STM in particular, is that it can sometimes be too much. The limited inventory encourages some tactical thinking, but when a puzzle is stumping you (and they will stump you) the ability to potentially bring every available object in the game into a conversation can feel overwhelming. There are so many options that could be dragged into the STM and so many things that they could interact with that it twice pushed me into a loop where I got stuck in a single location in the game.
There are some additional minor mechanics that provide variety. The nicest was Resonance’s tolerance of player death. The game simply rewinds to the point immediately before whatever triggers the death, a better alternative than relying on saved games.Overall, the game’s puzzles and the process of getting out of them provide just the right amount of frisson; they are difficult enough to feel great once you figured it out.
Of the game’s characters, two of the protagonists Ed and Anna were extraordinarily well fleshed out and well-acted, going beyond their respective roles as science geek and doctor to feel quite real. The other two playable characters, Ray and Bennet, are also well-acted (including voice work from the remarkable Logan Cunningham, best known as Bastion’s narrator). However, their writing did, at times, delve into stereotypical behavior in a way that was almost jarring.
When Ray and Bennet fall into a reliance on reporter and detective tropes, it brings me up short, especially in contrast with the other excellent writing in the game. The same is true for some of the NPCs, who are almost visibly patched up with stereotypes. Though this is less of a problem in an adventure game where that type of character is used as a way to make things lighter.I won’t go into much detail about the third act, because it is so very good. This is due, in part, to one of the best moments of sudden dramatic irony I’ve experienced in any genre. The only real flaw in the game’s final act is the introduction of some strange and somewhat out of place characters. For a moment I felt like the story was going to lose focus, but their appearance is thankfully brief and does little to work against the spectacular ending I received.
The flashback sequences are also executed well, most particularly a set of sequences that reminded me of Max Payne’s unnerving blood-soaked hallway dream. These scenes are fascinating because they allow us to travel through Anna’s perspective for when she later gets her own moment of perfect anagnorisis.
There are some interesting issues at the core of the game’s story. Resonance does well not to reveal them all at once, or beat you over the head with them. Instead, the game leverages relevant social issues, like digital privacy and homeland security, to help drive the player forward. By tying itself to reality, Resonance fully engaged me in uncovering the game’s mysteries, a feeling I haven’t really experienced since the first Deus Ex.
It’s clear that not only are there multiple endings, but also multiple solutions to a number of puzzles. Some are intriguingly hinted at by the achievements built into the game. As a result, I find myself inclined towards another playthrough.
Resonance is one of the first PC games to come out of the whole Kickstarter process. If this is any indication of what’s to come from crowd-funded gaming, I can’t wait.
I recommend purchasing and playing this game as soon as you can. It is available as a PC download or on a physical disk from Wadjet Eye Games or GOG.com. It is scheduled for Steam release sometime in July.