Adventure game specialist Wadjet Eye burst onto the indie gaming scene last year with its engaging game Gemini Rue, which received rightful praise for its creative design. Unfortunately, Wadjet Eye's follow-up effort, Resonance, isn't in the same class in terms of writing, puzzles, and fun. This is a shame because Resonance includes some promising innovations to gameplay for graphic adventures.
For example, rather than simply having an inventory of physical items, characters (you play four different ones throughout the game) have an inventory of memories, too--both long- and short-term. Long-term memories are major plot points that each character has witnessed; these can be recalled for hints in-game (such as remembering a secret knock) or can be used as part of the game's conversation system to discuss memories from a given character's perspective.
Short-term memory is even more interesting, allowing you to make use of items in an area that you couldn't carry with you in somewhat the same way as you'd use inventory items or long-term memories. Want to ask someone about a giant slab of concrete blocking a door? Just drag the concrete into your short-term memory, and you can use it as a topic of discussion or as a way to ask someone for help with moving it. The memory system adds a new way that characters can interact with and make use of their environments and experiences, and such interaction feels much more natural than the usual "combine syrup with cat hair to make mustache"-type adventure game puzzles.
Unfortunately, such puzzles do exist in Resonance, though at the beginning of the game they're no more than a minor annoyance. Once you get past the initial introductory stage and into the meat of the adventure, however, you find yourself controlling four separate individuals, switching back and forth between them to solve some fairly basic, combinatory puzzles. Sometimes you need your group to be together, sometimes you need it to be separated, and sometimes it doesn't matter. And that's confusing.
Solving puzzles is often a question of having the right couple of folks--out of a group of four--in the right place, with the right items on them (they can exchange items, but not memories, with each other). But it's hard to know which people to take with you before the fact. Sure, it makes sense that you should take the cop to the police station, but who else should come with him? Should you take the attractive girl to distract the front-desk guy, or the annoying hacker dude to break into the computers? Mostly you figure this out through trial and error, and lots of it, and that means the middle section of the game takes way longer than it should.
But even in Resonance's better-paced sequences (the multi-character deal is abandoned about three-quarters of the way through the game), there are so many outright nonsensical things that happen that you just can't get involved in the story. Half-baked writing abounds in Resonance, with plot point after plot point relying on silly contrivances (and several outright unexplained occurrences) materializing out of nowhere to move the story along--and then being dropped entirely from discussion.
In one scene, for example, the main characters come upon a note that throws suspicion on one of them, specifically naming him as someone not to trust. This causes the other three to knock him out and tie him up. Later the characters' mistrust is shown to be a misunderstanding, but who left the implicating note, how that person knew this character's name (or even that he existed), and how the note showed up just at the critical moment are never addressed.