Developer: Airtight Games | Released: 2014 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure
I’m going to bring the pros and cons in the end back again. I actually like writing them, and also reading them at a later time to remind me what I originally thought about the game in few words.
This was a really pleasant surprise. I’ve had it in my backlog for years but always postponed playing it. I had seen videos of the gameplay, and although the adventure part did look very appealing (that’s why I bought the game in the first place) the patrolling demons looked like they could be frustrating. Luckily, at first the demons were not that hard to deal with, and I really liked the smooth adventure puzzles.
The game started with a police detective being thrown out of a window and subsequently shot and killed by a masked killer. The detective became a bluish ghost and was shocked to see himself dead. Shades of that movie with Patrick Swayze, no doubt about that. I then had to investigate and solve my own death. Along the way, I sometimes found other ghosts with side cases about figuring out how they died too.
I liked the voice actor for the detective – a really good film noir fit.
The pure adventure part of the game was prevalent and absolute bliss. As soon as I got close to something, an action word was shown along with one or more hotkeys shown as actual keyboard buttons or a mouse with a highlighted button. It may sound simple, but it worked really well, especially as some hotkeys were automatically disabled if an action didn’t make sense in the given situation.
Apart from picking up object for collections, I could investigate crime scenes by possessing living humans and then either read their mind for one sentence, peek at what they were looking at, or maybe influence to make them move something to the side for me to get a better look. Objects found sometimes started a cutscene, and all clues and collections were available in a separate screen.
Crime scene locations typically had a finite area, often encompassing a few rooms, and showed a maximum number of clues I had to find. As soon as all of the clues were collected, I could start piecing together what happened by selecting the right puzzle pieces. Side cases worked in the same way too.
The crime scene at the top floor revealed a girl fleeing that I now had to find.
Apart from possessing living humans and talking to ghosts, I could walk through walls and doors. There was an understandable limitation in that entire buildings couldn’t be passed through. I had to use an open door or window at this point. The outer walls inside a building were bluish to indicate not being passable.
As the game progressed, bluish ghost trash piled up inside the buildings to create obstacles for me to pass around. Typically this always resembled walls and objects from the old days. There was even one place in a museum where a ghost train was frequently rushing by on ghost tracks. I had to be careful there.
Walking around investigating and finding clues was lovingly delightful, but in some buildings there were demons to spice things up. In the first building – where the detective was thrown out of the window – there were a total of three demons. One on the second floor and two on the third.
Encountering a demon was of course dangerous. If I hesitated for too long, it would suck my soul and the game would return to the last checkpoint. I could sprint away and hide in ghostly placeholders, and even teleport between these in order to lose the demon on my tail. Then as it went back to patrolling, I could sneak up from behind and hold down a hotkey to execute it. This ended with a random hotkey combination shown on screen for me to react quickly. If I failed hitting this quick enough, it was back to hiding.
Maybe it’s because I’m not solely an adventure gamer, but I didn’t find avoiding and executing demons all that difficult. I could see their orange figure through walls by holding down a detection hotkey, then as they turned their back to me, I sprinted towards them and did the deed.
However, as the story went from place to place in the city, the buildings started clustering the demons closer together. This made executing them much more difficult, if not nigh impossible. I could then sneak my way past, sometimes even click a ghost crow to distract a demon. But about half way through the game I had enough of this and activated the configuration cheat to make them unaware of me. From then on I could walk right by them as if there were blind.
After passing through a small beach area, I entered a big church. I could possess a cat in here and then control it directly. This gave way to a sequence of jump puzzles up on tables, through a long vent, climbing a tree and more. This was necessary as the detective couldn’t enter the attic himself. Strange “lava”-like bonfires blocked the stairs, and stepping on these was absolutely not fun for ghosts.
I found the girl I was looking for in the attic. Her name was Joy. It turned out that she was a medium and could both see and talk to the detective ghost. That was conspicuously convenient indeed, but of course it made it much easier throwing dialog choices in her direction.
To go light on spoilers from now on, suffice to say that the game went from place to place in the city, sometimes with Joy along for the ride. She could move or open things I as a ghost couldn’t, and I could use poltergeist on door panels and surveillance cameras so she could sneak past. We visited a police station, the cemetery, a mental hospital, a museum, and so on.
At one point I learned to teleport. It was very limited – I could barely teleport a few meters ahead, but it was good enough for teleporting across a gap or through a hole in a ghost wall. It opened up for finding a few more of the ubiquitous collection items in the city too.
One thing I discovered as I progressed through the story and walked the town several times was that the side cases were actually quite sparse. I think only about four was found? There were plenty of ghost people standing around looking like another side case, but most of them only had a sentence to say and then nothing happened. It was a shame, actually. I would have liked more side cases.
Those “lava”-like bonfires were used in the buildings I visited as part of the story. If I couldn’t find another way around, I had to possess a living human after using poltergeist on a device to make them curious. After crossing the bonfire, I could leave the host. Sometimes I had to ask Joy to let me possess her so I could get past, but she was never crazy about it.
One thing that really disappointed me after all the fascinating adventure gameplay was the ending. It was that terrible trope all over again – a frustrating sequence frequently dying, tight countdowns, and lots of tiresome retries. I really wish the developers came up with something less punishing there.
Still, the calm and relaxing adventure part permeated most of this game, and it absolutely made it worth playing. It’s really sad that the developer folded after the bad rap. They deserved better.
- Great graphics, facial animations and motion capture.
- Excellent voice acting. Especially Joy and the detective are both really spot on.
- In between visiting buildings in the city for the story, you can explore the city itself.
- Lots of collections, some of which opens up for story cutscenes.
- Clue puzzles are usually smooth and easy to work through.
- You get a teleport power later that opens up previously unreachable corners in the city.
- Joy and the detective working together spices up the game even further.
- You get to possess a cat on a few occasions for getting through tight spaces.
- Some players may find the clue puzzles to be a bit too much on the easy side.
- Demons quickly become an annoying hassle, but luckily there’s a cheat to deal with those.
- The end sequence is really appalling, with lots of frustrating retries.
- Not enough side cases to be found.
- Possessing humans to just read their minds get tiresome after a while.