IFComp 2009 review: Resonance by Matthew Scarpino

The author credits last year's Nightfall for inspiration. Since the author himself mentions the link, I'll just continue from there.

Resonance is very close to being more than just inspired by Nightfall -- it's at the border of being Nightfall retold (or reimagined if you will). If you look at Nightfall's defining properties, you'll find almost all of them in from Resonance. Just to mention a couple: You have a "sandbox" city you can explore. There are many non-essential locations where you can unveil more of the story and the background. There's a map included. Both have "mad scientist" plots with similar story arcs. I was constantly reminded of Nightfall while playing Resonance, although that's not necessarily a bad thing considering that I liked Nightfall the best of all the last year's comp games.

My final point is that like its inspiration, Resonance has the city's streets devoid of people and a reasonable explanation within the story to why this is. The thing is that Resonance doesn't actually need empty streets. The story and puzzles would work just as well without. I suspect the city is empty mostly because that's how it is with Nightfall.

The main problems of Resonance are pacing and NPC credibility. Things are happening at a breakneck speed at points, with little involvement from the player. To finish the game you mainly have to go to different places, do some obvious tasks, solve a couple of riddles (what is it with riddles this year?) and watch the events unfold. Most of the time I had barely any feeling of actually being involved of anything that was happening. I was just a spectator instead of active partaker.

There are, I suspect, several reasons to feeling detached to the PC's actions, the main reasons being the fast pace of what was happening and the lack of intention on my part. Typing a command would bring the plot forward a relatively long way and to a direction that would not have been my intention. To give an example, not exactly from this game but to give some explanation to what I'm trying to say, if I type SIT ON CHAIR I would not expect the PC then automatically having a cup of tea and exchanging a few words with aunt Mabel about the weather.

The other big problem I had was with the actions of some NPCs that required a hefty dose of suspension of disbelief. Especially the scene with the police officers was a bit hard to imagine as actually happening.

Ok, so that was the bad news. The good news is that Resonance is not a bad game at all. The story is a delicious noir-scifi-action mashup that resists the temptation of taking any of its aspects too far. It's actually fun going around the city, meeting people and advancing the script. While not without some serious flaws, Resonance is still the best game I've played so far in the comp.

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