Review | Still Life 2
Format: PC | Genre: Adventure | Publisher: Iceberg Interactive | Developer: Microïds/GameCo | Release date: 19/02/10 | RRP: £24.99
There’s a history here that most games manage to avoid. The original Still Life, released back in 2005 and itself a sequel to 2003’s Post Mortem, made quite a stir for a couple of reasons. For starters, it was an adventure game with a personality, which was quite the turn-up at the time. But it perhaps made itself most famous by its inexplicably having been released at all.
See, developer Microïds ran into trouble during the game’s creation, resulting in the studio’s closure. Except they didn’t cancel the project. With their dying breath, they instead wrapped things up as quickly as possible and released it anyway. The game that emerged was distinctly unfinished, not just because the majority of its puzzles were in dire need of testing and refining, but also because the game just… ended.
It failed to tie up a whole cornucopia of important plot points, its lead character deciding to relocate to Los Angeles to continue working on the unresolved case and the credits rolling immediately afterwards. It was a murder mystery in which the mystery was never solved. And the tragic thing about the whole scenario was that Still Life was almost brilliant. It was artful, and gripping, and well-directed, and the script and dialogue weren’t awful. The game received plenty of plaudits anyway, but the nagging sense remained that Microïds’ final release could have been so much more.
The story doesn’t end there, though, because in 2007 Microïds relaunched itself, and began planning a continuation of the Still Life saga. But development was to be outsourced to Parisian developer GameCo Studios. The resulting sequel launched in Germany almost a year ago, in various European countries a month later, and in North America last summer. The English version has been available digitally since then, but only now does it find its way to UK retail, and only now has it landed on Resolution’s tattered doormat.
All that might seem like an unnecessary history lesson, but it’s especially relevant when examining Still Life 2. With it, GameCo had the rare opportunity to build on Microïds’ fascinating ideas, adept storytelling techniques and wondrous art design, while taking the time to refine the puzzles and tie up several loose ends. Which is why it’s so utterly bizarre to be playing the game that sits before me.
STOP THE PRESS
You’re Victoria McPherson again. A highly strung but talented FBI agent, she’s been tracking the Chicago murders of Still Life for several years. She hates journalists. But when one gets kidnapped by a new serial maniac, she’s no choice but to rush to her aid.
You’re also Paloma Hernandez, that journalist, fighting to stay alive through a series of misguided escape-the-room puzzles whose logic regularly escapes me. Occasionally, there’s a moment of simple resourcefulness, which works: of course you can drag a matress over a pile of sharp glass in order to cross safely. Other times, though, it’s just plain bonkers. Early on, you’re tasked with escaping the killer’s bedroom, but straying too near to the door gives you a nasty electric shock. The solution – not to give too much away – involves flicking a light switch.
More frequent than both ends of this scale, though, are puzzles that make sense in hindsight, but through which the game fails to adequately guide you. The point-and-click interface couldn’t be simpler, but there are times when vital clues can be missed by simply not examining something in the way the game wants.
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