I am a big fan of adventure games. They've been my favorite genre for decades. I like them quite a lot. Enough to have named my cat Guybrush. I have sampled and enjoyed many indie adventure games, both old and new, this year. And I mention all of this so that you will realize the weight of my words when I say:
Resonance is the best classic-style adventure game I've played in ages. Go get it now.
It's the latest from XII Games (Infinity Bit, anna) and Wadjet Eye Games, most recently known for Gemini Rue. As much as I adore the entire genre of adventure games, I liked Gemini Rue a lot more in theory than I did in practice. I found its puzzles to by overly fiddly and did not at all enjoy repeated death and timed solutions when I encountered them. I thought the setting and tone were brilliant, and I wanted to love the game, but in truth I never finished it.
I haven't finished Resonance yet either, but it's not for lack of trying. It's because I only got my hands on it yesterday, and at a certain point I have to do things like "sleep" and "shower" and "feed the cat" and "stop playing the game so I can make my deadline to write about the game."
There has been a major disaster. Over a dozen cities worldwide have been suddenly wiped out, nearly simultaneously. No terrorist group claims responsibility, and none were suspected to have that kind of reach anyway. The world is in chaos; this may truly be an apocalyptic event.
Sixty hours earlier, a researcher's cell phone rings. It's 6:30 on a Sunday morning, but his boss's news is urgent: The data is dangerous. Someone is after him. And he needs to destroy his research.
So begins the first of five vignettes that make up one of the most engaging prologues I've ever played. Each introduces one of the main characters and gives you an insight into his or her background, and an inkling of the ways in which their stories might be connected. Each also introduces a particular gameplay mechanic so seamlessly that it doesn't feel in the slightest like the tutorial it actually is.
Like Heavy Rain, the story unfolds through the actions of four different player characters. But like Day of the Tentacle, after a certain point the player can switch among them at will: Ed, the research assistant; Anna, the doctor; Ray, the journalist; and Bennet, the detective. Together, their four stories give the player a whole picture of how disaster came to be—or may yet be avoided.
The puzzles work through the basic use-inventory-item mechanism that has defined adventure gaming for over twenty years, but with two small twists. Each character has three kinds of inventory: standard, Short Term Memory, and Long Term Memory. And any of each of the three types can be examined or brought into conversation with other characters (playable and NPC).
Certain key conversations or experiences go into Long Term Memory, and can be recalled at will throughout the game. For example, one NPC's story of how a laboratory was destroyed goes into Ed's LTM. Meanwhile, anything that comes up in an area can be dragged into Short Term Memory. So at that lab, Ed can bring "broken window" into his STM after investigating it, and can then go back and ask anyone else about the window—either to learn how it got broken, or to ask for help reaching it. Combined with more traditional items (like the wrench that broke the window), the three form a robust and only occasionally clumsy way to interact with the game's whole world.
Resonance is a mystery: the player knows information the characters don't, and needs to learn still more. It also mostly rides in that incredibly hard-to-find sweet spot of puzzles, where for the most part, nothing is either too challenging or too simple. The game will give you what you need in a given location to advance, and the necessary leaps of logic are mostly, well, logical. But I never felt that the game was making solutions too easy, nor were they being deliberately obscured. Instead, it rides in the realm of the "just plausible enough": here is a situation. How do you solve it with the tools at hand?
And a bonus: yes, you do recognize Detective Bennet's voice and yes, it is Logan Cunningham from Bastion. How can you possibly resist that?