Although Gemini Rue was not unanimously liked by everyone who played it, it did well enough to encourage Wadjet Eye – and Dave Gilbert – to extend their service to would-be game creators, thus giving them the means to realize their dream of making a full-fledged game. Resonance, conceived by Vince Twelve (a mathematician, of all people), is one of the titles produced by Wadjet Eye after Gemini Rue.
PREMISE & INTROS:
The game takes place in the modern-day, though the year number is noticeably missing from most if not all documents in the game. There is research into quantum physics, and the game so happens to be about one of the breakthroughs.
The game begins with the player being introduced to Tolstoy Eddings, which is very much the main character of the story. He wakes up to a phone call from his superior; the latter is going to destroy their research into “Resonance” physics, for fear of it falling into the wrong hands. This introductory scene also serves as the tutorial, and also foreshadows certain plot twists that would happen later.
Next, the player is introduced to Anna Morales, the second player character. She has recurring nightmares about her childhood. Together with Eddings and the other player characters, she would later be involved in an investigation into her uncle’s legacy. That said, her segment introduces the surreal parts of the gameplay, which are not always about pointing-and-clicking.
Then, there is police detective Bennett. Bennett has recently committed himself to a case that his superiors have tried to close without explanation. Eventually, he would meet the other player characters because his case happens to be part of the mystery that they are investigating. His intro has him expressing his resourcefulness, thus showing that he is not just some overweight lazy cop.
Coincidentally, independent journalist Raymond Abbott is also investigating something that is related to the aforementioned mystery. His intro is the most complex, requiring the player to look at things in the environment, say the right things to an NPC, and using what is already in his inventory and what is going into it to solve a problem in that scene.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY AND LONG-TERM MEMORY – OVERVIEW:
After the prologue, which introduces the typical gameplay tropes of point-and-click adventure games, the player is brought to a scenario where the gameplay elements of Short-Term Memory (STM) and Long-Term Memory (LTM) are introduced. Specifically, the player will have to make use of these elements in order to advance in the game.
As their full names suggest, STM and LTM represent the memories of the player characters. These are mainly used in dialogue, specifically to bring up topics that are otherwise not already in the list of topics.
This would not have been noteworthy, if not for the fact that most adventure games have the dialogue options appearing in a conversation between the player characters and NPCs wherever they are pertinent.
In this game though, the player has to rifle through the list of memories in order to either provide the right answer to an NPC, or to have the player character remind others about something. In such cases, other games would just have the dialogue happening on its own. In Resonance, this is used to test the player’s memory and intuition, though at the cost of immersion because the player would be dragging icons in and out of the lists.
LONG-TERM MEMORY AND STORY-TELLING:
LTM is mainly there for the purpose of story-telling; the list includes things that are important to the overarching plot and the backstory. The player cannot put things into the LTM list; it only fills when the player character experiences and remembers something important. Other than bringing them up in certain conversations, they are there to remind the player what has happened and what has to be done.
Perhaps the most notable and amusing thing about the LTM feature is that the player characters appear to share certain memories, even if they were not around to experience them first-hand. This was an executive decision by the Gilbert couple for the sake of streamlining the gameplay.
Where the LTM list is fixed according to the story, the STM list can be populated by the player. The player fills the list by dragging icons that represent things and people in the surroundings into the list. The list can only hold several things; not everything in a scene can fit into the list.
The player can then drag and drop the icons on NPCs or click on them during conversations to bring up topics about the things that the icons represent. If the player needs to bring up a specific topic and the topic is not in the STM list, the player needs to return to the scene with the topical object and drag its icon into the STM list.
In hindsight, and considering the end-goal of bringing up conversation topics, this can seem a bit tedious. This is especially so for players that have played adventure games where the topics are automatically included as dialogue options when the player characters have come across problems that involve those topics.
NOT EVERYONE’S CUP OF TEA:
On the other hand, those other games resort to (often-spoken) monologue from the player characters or nearby NPCs to tell the player what should be done next. Resonance does not do much of that; monologues from the player characters in Resonance are not always very informative. (If the player wants to know what to do next, having a player character ask another what to do would bring up a reminder.)
Thus, having learned about the purpose of the STM list, the player has to examine scenes for any noteworthy objects that can be brought up during conversations with NPCs. Yet, unless the player is already an observant person who has the intuition to connect things together, the player might have to waste time trying to enter everything into the STM list at least once just to bring it up in a conversation.
Players who are used to playing adventure games for their stories and not to exercise their logical train of thought might not appreciate this busywork.
SOMEWHAT CLUNKY USER INTERFACE:
The STM and LTM lists have to be brought up with buttons that appear on a drop-down panel; next to them is another button, specifically one for accessing the inventory of the current character.
Having to use a drop-down panel, then clicking on the pertinent button and then dragging and dropping icons can be a tiresome process. In the case of players whose solution to a problem is to trying everything until something works, this can be daunting.
DRAG AND DROP:
Speaking of dragging and dropping icons, this is perhaps the most annoying control input in the game. If the player wants to put things into the STM list, they have to be dragged and dropped into the list. If the player wants to use things on other things, they also have to be dragged and dropped.
Most other point-and-click adventure games change the icon of the mouse cursor to the object that is to be used, or create a pop-up menu to let the player use things on other things. Few of them involve dragging and dropping, because this makes the gameplay more physically bothersome than it should be.
CANNOT TALK ABOUT NPCS IN THE SCENE THAT HAS THEM:
One of the optional uses of the STM list is to have the player characters talk to each other about NPCs. Talking about NPCs is not needed to solve any puzzles; it is just there so that the player can listen to more of the voice-overs.
However, players who want to do so anyway might be irked by a limitation that is placed on this action. Specifically, this cannot be done in the scene that has the NPC; the player character monologues about the imprudence of talking about NPCs within earshot of them. Thus, the player has to move the player characters to another scene before talking about the NPCs. This can be tedious.
In other adventure games, the protagonists can talk about NPCs that happen to be in the same scene. The NPCs either did not hear them at all, or hear them anyway so that they can make remarks that are amusing. The need for privacy and prudence is understandable in real-life, but enforcing them in an adventure game does not make for convenient gameplay.
MULTIPLE PLAYER CHARACTERS – OVERVEW:
If it is not apparent already, there are multiple player characters. Where most other adventure games give the player only one player character, or two at most, Resonance has up to four of them. They become available for use in the later chapters.
This is a bold design decision, because having these many characters raise complications, such as their coordination as a team. For better or worse, not all of these complications could be addressed in a convincingly satisfactory manner.
SWITCHING PLAYER CHARACTERS:
Only one player character can be controlled at any time. If they are not asked to follow the player character that is in use, they stay where they are, no matter what.
Fortunately, there are no scenarios in which the player must urgently have the currently controlled player character do something so as to save them all while the others are standing around and being oblivious about the danger that they are in. (There are, of course, situations in which the characters are in danger; however, the player is given more control over any character in these situations.)
However, there is one particular mid- to late-game obstacle in which the player has to get the player characters through a hazardous environment. There is no time constraint, but this segment of the game does imperil player characters if the player is not being careful. On the other hand, this segment also shows that they are quite oblivious when they are not being controlled by the player character.
USING MULTIPLE CHARACTERS SIMULTANEOUSLY:
As per Chekhov’s gun, having multiple characters means having to use more than one of them to overcome an obstacle.
Interestingly, obstacles that require more than one player character are not the usual types, e.g. having the player characters pull different switches simultaneously. Some are simple but not frequently shown in adventure games, such as having one player character heave another character onto a higher platform. Distracting NPCs with one player character while having another player character slip by is among the most amusing acts that can be carried out.
CAN ONLY USE SPECIFIC CHARACTERS:
Some scenarios can only be resolved through the use of specific characters. The limitations are generally understandable: for example, a will that is bequeathed unto Anna is only presentable by Anna.
Generally, the characters would express their limitations through their monologues. For example, Bennett reminds himself that he is not exactly good at mathematics when the player attempts to have him examine the circuitry of an electronic lock that uses hardcoded components.
The player can have each character go his/her own way, if the player so wishes. There is no time constraint and not all obstacles require the use of multiple characters, so this is just a matter of convenience.
CHARACTERS STAYING PUT:
Amusingly, characters that are not in use stay exactly where they are – even if it might not be prudent for them to do so. For example, one of the locations that the protagonists can go to is the office for police administration; any of the player characters can stand in its lobby without raising the suspicion of the desk officer that is in the same room.
HAVING OTHER CHARACTERS FOLLOW BEHIND:
If the player needs to have more than one character for a scene, or has the whim to get them to the same place, the player can have the currently controlled player character ask others to follow him/her. The pathfinding scripts for followers are rudimentary though; if the player wants them to stand in exact spots, the player will have to switch to them.
Speaking of which, switching to other player characters will break any following behavior. If the player wants to have the other characters following someone around later, the player will have to have the current player character ask around again.
Fortunately, there are not many scenarios where moving the entire group around and switching characters and moving the group again is needed.
Each player character has his/her own STM, LTM and inventory lists; they share the same limit of things that can be in their STM lists, though they do not have any limits on the things that they can carry. (Most of the things that they are willing to carry are small portable items that they can carry on their person anyway.)
Some puzzles require specific characters to have and use specific things on other things or other people. For this purpose, the characters can give some items to others, though they will insist on having certain things to themselves. For example, Bennett would never let anyone else have his department-issued handgun.
When a player character meets a demise that is not fated by the story progression, the game rewinds the events that have occurred back to the most recent game-save in that scene. The game is actually accessing the game-save files in this case, which is a programming feat.
Due to limitations in production capacity (caused by the implementation of four player characters with different personalities), the monologues of the characters are not voiced. Instead, the player sees text balloons appear on screen, mentioning their thoughts. Monologues also auto-advance, so the player will want to read the text promptly.
A FEW UNPLEASANT MOTION CONTROL PUZZLES:
There are some puzzles that require the player to use the mouse to drag sprites around. For a few of these, such as the solving of the puzzles on a puzzle box, this control scheme is tolerable. For the others, they can be annoying, especially in cases where the solution is not carried out the way that it typically would be in other adventure games.
For example, in other adventure games that have scenes about using glass shards to cut things, the protagonist does that immediately, i.e. the cutting is a scripted event. In this game’s take on this adventure game trope, the player has to shuffle the sprite of the glass shard across the artwork that represents a rope, just to mimic the motion of slicing.
Such motion-controlled puzzles have gone out of vogue before Resonance, and for good reason; they are just as likely to break immersion as they would improve it.
Nikolas Sideris is the composer of the music in Resonance. Many of the tracks are ominous, which is perhaps fitting if the game is regarded in hindsight.
The most memorable tracks are those that play during Anna’s dreams. They certainly fit the dire atmosphere of her dreams, though of course, any sense of dread might be diminished by the fact that a rewind would happen if Anna’s dream-self meets her demise.
(That said, the player cannot make any game-saves or –loads during some of the dream sequences, specifically those that do not use the standard user interface. This is generally not an issue, because these sequences are short.)
There are next to no sounds for walking about; only a rare few scenes have sound clips for footsteps. In fact, quite a number of occurrences do not have sound effects, like doors being unlocked.
The significant and/or unusual occurrences in the story have audio clips where they matter, though they may seem mediocre at best. For example, the collision of Resonance particles is not directly shown or even heard throughout most of the game, but one of the possible finales does play the audio clip for it in addition to the visual effects. (The audio clip appears to have been drawn from an archive of stock sounds though; experienced players may have heard it before in other games.)
At least the ambience of places is spot-on in most cases. Indeed, the player characters will be going to quite a number of places, even though all of them takes place in the same fictitious city of Aventine.
As to be expected of a Wadjet Eye production, the voice-overs are the best of the sound designs in Resonance. Two main-stays of Wadjet Eye voice two of the protagonists; Sara Elmaleh as Anna gets to speak some convincing Spanish phrases (though of course, only a native speaker can tell that), whereas Daryl Lathon finally gets a major role (though he also made a lot of the bloopers during voice-recording).
As for the casting of the other characters, Dave Gilbert continues to make good choices like he had ever since the first few Blackwell games. Tolstoy Eddings, in particular, benefited greatly from Edward Bauer’s voice-over; the agony in his voice in the finale is notably convincing while not being over-the-top, to cite an example. Dave Gilbert himself, of course, still voices tertiary characters where convenient.
PLENTY OF FAT-CUTTING:
Perhaps the most praiseworthy thing about the game is not what is in it, but rather what is not. The developer commentary reveals that a lot of scenes have been reduced, streamlined or otherwise cut from Vince Twelve’s original script. Dave Gilbert – together with Janet Gilbert – made executive decisions to implement lessons learned from the Blackwell games, like minimizing exposition scenes and removing scenes about ancillary characters whose impact to the story is not really significant.
Of course, without having seen the cut content, it would be hard to tell if they were indeed poorly conceived. Still, quite a number of adventure games (and games in other genres) are bogged down by long cutscenes that go on and on; it is fortunate that Resonance keeps these scenes short before returning control to the player.
Resonance is certainly not like most other adventure games. Four playable protagonists with different personalities and motivations are a handful to deal with, even if they appear to have the same goal. Making use of a different way to initiate dialogue topics brings further complications. Still, Wadjet Eye accepted the challenge posed by creator Vince Twelve.
The results are not superbly stellar: switching between characters can be cumbersome, and seeing them frozen in place while they are not being controlled can break immersion. The need to use the STM feature may entertain players with meticulous streaks, but raise the complexity of the gameplay in a game of a genre that is otherwise known for being very accessible.
Yet, some kudos deserves to be given for Wadjet Eye having done things that are rarely done in the point-and-click adventure game genre.