Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
I believe that Microids is one of the finest developers of adventure games out there right now. What a legacy of impressive games: Amerzone, Road To India, Syberia and now Post Mortem. After the release of Syberia, there were two games that I thought had the most promise judging by their site teasers, pre-release game shots and general around the web buzz. Post Mortem was one of those games. The US release by DreamCatcher is coming soon, but due to a few Canadian distributors, Post Mortem has trickled into the hands of myself and a few other gamers. So what was all the excitement about and how did the developers do? Iíll start this review with a resounding: 'Yes'! Post Mortem lived up to its hype, with a few caveats. As for how it did this... hmmm, letís examine the evidence.
The Prelude... A Visit to the Dark Side
The game is installed, you start it up... and suddenly you are soaring down into the city of Paris. However, you quickly learn, this isnít the Paris of lights. No, this is the dark side of the city and itís people. The music and faded graphics are classic Film Noir. A couple arrives at a hotel. Enraptured with each other, they pay scant attention to those around them. Laughing, they go up to their rooms. Flinging clothing and cares to the floor, they quickly tumble into bed. They startle at a sound and sit up mesmerized by what they see. What happens next sets the stage for this horror-tinged detective tale. In these brief visual flashes, we know that a fiend of unknown and hidden identity has committed a ghastly murder with fevered violence. Who were his silenced victims and what is going on? These are just a few of the mysteries in this game. This is a story of uncertainties. Who were the victims? Why were they killed? Who are the people in this plot? Who can you trust? Anyone? Perhaps no one. Such begins the tale of our reluctant detective and jaded hero.
Act 1: The Usual Suspects...
I would normally start with the look of the game. But in this case, the characters are too good to wait. Our hero is an artist/detective. He is an American of uncertain background. How he came to Paris may not be important... or is it? There is a difference in him and it is not just an artist's eye. He sees things, things that will be or maybe echoes of what was. He has friends, or perhaps acquaintances would be a more apt term. Bebe, the hostess at the Alambic Bistro. Itís proprietor, Hulot, a man of easy ethics and questionable motives. There is another, Hellouin, who has been prying into the lives of others. An ally, or perhaps a suspect, or worse. And then of course the client, Sophia Blake. For in any seedy detective tale there is always a client. A beautiful woman, with secrets to hide... who may or may not pay her bill. The characters are engrossing in Post Mortem. The main character has a world-weary tone to his voice: I thought it seemed perfect for the plot and surroundings. The remainder of the cast are well acted and fleshed out.
Act 2: The Plot Thickens...
The story in this game is definitely one of its strong points. That is saying a great deal, as I think Post Mortem is the finale to the Microids slam-dunk started by the release of Syberia. You have to look hard to find weak points in this game. Curiously there are two distinct layers to this game's plot. There is the overriding plot line, and then there is a thread that weaves itís way throughout the game... altered by varied choices you make throughout your game play. It was very hard to articulate this feature, but I will try to describe it in more detail in a moment. In any event, there are twists and turns in this game... some will be anticipated others will surprise. The good guy/bad guy line in this game is also murky at best. Some 'friends' are far from perfect, and probably cannot be trusted too far. I love a horror-tinged plot with supernatural overtones. There are of course the predictable conspirators with evil intentions (hard to not think that with such grotesque and seemingly senseless murder afoot). But Microids managed to come up with a unique angle on a centuries old group, and spring some historical surprises on this gamer. If this plot synopsis sounds a bit vague, it is intentional: I really donít want to give away any of the delicious plot turns.
Act 3: The Stage is Set...
The graphics in Post Mortem seemed perfectly oriented to the mood of the game. Some may find them a bit on the dark side (meaning light levels). However the cut scenes are crisp and easy on the eyes regardless of your preferences. The music is up front in cafes and such where it would be logically present, and background only for other areas of the game. It enhances the sultry surrealistic tone of Post Mortem. Again, this was my kind of game. I adore the questionable ethos of Bogie, Film Noir and Hitchcock. So Post Mortem also gained my admiration.
Act 4: The Best Laid Plans...
Post Mortem is absolutely unique in the way it is laid out, or I suppose the way it is coded or structured. It has no dead ends. Yep, thatís right, no dead ends. This to me is the most impressive quality of this game. Now there are some tough puzzles. One takes pixel hunting to a whole new level. To me, this particular puzzle was a distraction. In fact, I played this game three times and it didnít get any easier. There is also a suspect sketch that may force you to grab a cheat. However this irritation was muted by the novelty and logical integration of the other challenges in the game. You will have to look sharp, and pay attention to your surroundings, and what clues are given through questioning the many characters. Still the main point I want to stress is that after three replays, I truly ran across no red herrings and no dead ends. No matter what you do... or how you get a dilemma solved... you will not mess up the rest of the game path. In fact, I urge people NOT to look at threads or hints for this game. You will be totally confused by some of the things you will read based upon how you are going through the game. It took me a bit of time to figure this out. I spent a day looking for an item, allegedly by an elevator, that would never be in my saved game as I had chosen a different path earlier in the game. There are at least two ways to get past every challenge. There are three endings to the game. I replayed it for a third time to get the third ending and ended up with an entire mid-game cut scene I was unaware of. What this game does is ask the gamer to 'just play the game' and trust their own efforts. I realize we have all been conditioned to panic if we use an item in one place and it vanishes, then we run across another puzzle that looks like it can only have been solved with the first item. This game says, 'So what... look for something else then'. And more amazingly, there will always be something else that you can use if you look for it. My technical knowledge is pitiful, but I suppose I just have to say 'Bravo' to the designers/coders/developer of Post Mortem. What a tightly wrapped, cleverly crafted game. Bravo!!
Act 5: Finale...
Hard to tell that I liked this game a great deal, isnít it? Heh-heh. If you love a wicked mystery, with a weary disillusioned detective and a multitude of plot twists thrown in with a good dose of horror... then this is your mystery and a must play game.
© 2002 Laura MacDonald
Visit the Official Post Mortem Website to learn more about the game, view additional screenshots and a trailer, download the demo or a video, and much more.
Developed (2002) by Microids and published (2003) by The Adventure Company in the United States.
Rated: M for Mature 17+ (blood and gore, mature sexual themes, violence)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium II 350 MHz Processor (Pentium III 500 MHz Recommended); Windows 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 64 MB RAM (128 MB RAM Recommended); 16X CD-ROM Drive (24X Recommended); 16 MB DirectX 7 Compatible Video Card (32 MB Recommended); DirectX 7 Compatible Sound Card; 470 MB of Free Hard Drive Space (720 MB Recommended); Mouse
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