Remember two games I have talked about in the past before? Little Kite and Repentant? Well, the developer Anate Studio released his newest game last month. The developer was so kind to provide me with a press key to review and talk about this game before release. But, due to life getting extremely busy… I didn’t have the time to actually write something about this game until today. As usual, you’ll get my 100% honest opinion about this game and if this new point-and-click game is worth your time or not. If this world is really a safe place right now, or if we should do something about it. In any case, let’s dive right into it, and feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article. I’m always curious to read those.
Editorial note: this article is written while the game was in v1.1
Playing with emotions
Just like in all previous Anate Studio’s games, this game tackles heavy subjects. In this game, the story is about self-sacrifice and a troubled childhood. In this game, you play as an engineer, Alexander. He lives in the post-Soviet era, which was in the midst of an economic crisis.
One night, he meets a young girl called Christina while waiting for the bus. Things go south from there, and Alexander commits a murder in front of her and covers it up. While the girl promises to keep silent when he helps her, things might and will go even more south from there.
In terms of writing, the story is well tense. There are two majors threats loomed over our main character and they are equally thrilling. Should Alexander deal with the troubles of the economic crisis, or should Alexander make sure that all the traces to the murder are covered up? This struggle also comes back in the writing, making it even more tense for you as the player.
Something I want to mention as well, is that I found it extremely lovely to see the dev diaries on the studio’s YouTube channel. For example, in this video, we see how the first scene is inspired by a real life bridge in Ukraine. You see it all come together in a time-lapse, and you see how much detail and love has been put into this game.
This whole game is also voice acted. I have to say that compared to the previous game, the voice acting has improved quite a lot. The voice acting is a lot less monotone and has a bit more feeling into it. From the three games I have played from this studio, I feel that this is the best voice acting yet. While the voice acting has been improved, it’s still a bit jarring that there is no lip-syncing. So, you will hear the characters talking but not see them talking, you know.
The only critique I have about the voice acting is something I’m unsure is a critique of the voice acting, sound mixing and/or the visuals. It sounds and looks the same when you have thoughts and spoken dialogue. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often, so it isn’t a big problem. But, maybe for the next games, have a sort of little distortion on the thoughts and display that text in cursive. Something quite similar has been done by the ports of 999: 9 Hours, 9 Doors, 9 People, and it works extremely well when you are not picking up on context clues.
Before I move on, this time the game is only in English and Ukrainian. I only speak Dutch and English and a bit of French. I know a little bit of German, so I’m only going to stick with the language I understand and I can judge. So, this comes from somebody who doesn’t know any Ukrainian but from what I heard from the voice-over demo on the developer YouTube channel, it sounds pretty good as well.
Drawn by hand
I touched upon this earlier, but visually, this game is extremely detailed. Just look at this screenshot I have placed here. Every environment you visit is highly detailed and looks amazing.
Now, I have chosen this screenshot intentionally. Since, there is a minor issue I want to talk about here. On the desk in the bottom left, there are several items you can pick up. When you click on the desk, the camera zooms in. But, you can still move your character.
This leads to it feeling a bit janky in my opinion. Since, at first I didn’t know how to exit the zoomed in screen and when I learned I could just click on the top to walk away… I felt like you didn’t know what the restrictions were in the zoomed in area. So, if you work with a mechanic like this… Make it evident to the player how they can exit that zoomed in screen and don’t allow the character to move.
In any case, I wanted to talk about the visual presentation of this game. Overall, this game looks amazing. In addition to that, the animations in this game are decent. Some of them don’t really work in my opinion. I mean, the back and forth swaying from some characters feels out of place. It feels a bit unnatural. I can understand that from a gameplay standpoint that it makes the characters stand out more, but it looks a bit silly sometimes. Something I would love to see in future games is that the characters are more expressive, especially in dialogue. Now, they go through the same short animation cycle, and having them more expressive would make the game come more alive.
I hope that you aren’t getting the impression that this game is unpolished or that it’s broken. It isn’t. I’m just quite impressed by the leaps forwards that the developer made compared with the previous two titles, and I just want to see their games become even better. For example, in the previous game you only had a few hints you could use, and you had a set number. In this game, the hint system is miles better. In each area, there are several statues hidden. These statues can unlock an image sequence for you to get a hint. But be careful, since you can unlock an image sequence for a puzzle you already completed. And on top of that, there aren’t enough statues to unlock every hint tree. So, look for them and use them wisely. Since, they are hidden extremely well.
If you know what to do, this game will take you roughly two and a half hours. This game is longer than the two previous titles in this trilogy. Yes, the two games mentioned in the introduction are part of this game. Now, you don’t need to play the two previous games to understand everything in this game. But this game is as long as the two previous ones combined.
Earlier in this article, I said that the characters should be more expressive. But, there is another side of the coin. Sometimes, the lack of animation works in the visuals in their favor. Since, the sound design and sound effects make your head fill in a lot of details.
The sound effects really play a support role, sometimes to make the world come more alive. A small piece of advice I’d give is that in the next game you have some sort of subtitles for the sound effects as well for the hard of hearing/deaf people in your next game.
Something that shouldn’t change is the soundtrack. The soundtrack fits this game like a glove. It sounds atmospheric and creepy sometimes. And like I said, it fits the atmosphere amazingly. A rather common complaint from the previous game was sometimes the music and sound effects were louder than the voice acting, this is anything but a problem in this game.
This game controls extremely well. In this game, you almost exclusively use the left mouse button to control the game. This makes the game quite easy to learn. You might think that due to the very detailed art style, it’s not always clear where to click on. But the cursor turns into a nice hand icon when you can interact with something, and you can click the magnifying glass in the left corner to make sure you have investigated every spot.
Now, sadly there are a few complaints I have about this game. The first complaint is that activating the running in this game is quite tricky sometimes. I wasn’t always able to get the running to work, and the main character walks rather slow sometimes.
The two other complaints I have about this game are more UI based. Which is a shame, since they drag the amazingly crafted UI down. For of all, I find it a mistake that there is no save time in the load menu. This game has an auto-save system, but it’s unclear what the latest save is. There is also no way to manually save, either. So, you’ll have to rely on the auto-saving of this game. And that doesn’t happen quite often, only after certain specific events.
The second complaint about the UI I have is something of a pet peeve. Since there are multiple words for something, it’s always handy to have each item named. For example, you have a broom handle or broom stick. These names I’d love to see in the inventory. Since, when you don’t play this game in one sitting, it’s extremely handy to quickly hover over the items to quickly catch up with the items in your inventory.
All in all, this game is a huge improvement compared to the previous titles. The puzzles are quite challenging, and it feels quite rewarding to figure them out. The game has some issues for sure, but comparing the first titles of this developer with this game, it’s impressive how far this developer has come. A better hint system, better voice acting, a longer story and adventure… There is also a demo for this game if you are unsure if you want to pay the 12 euros for it.
The biggest issues I have about this game are rather small in the overall picture. My biggest annoyances in during playing were the running not always working as I hoped and the back and non-expressive characters during dialogue. I mean, the voice acting is so much better, but the animation needs to follow. You can’t have two back and forth sawing characters having a heated discussion.
So yeah, if those are the only two major complaints about an adventure game that’s well written and drags you into a emotionally gut-wrenching story with amazingly handcrafted enviroments… I mean, what’s stopped from me to recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or point-and-click games? Nothing! I’m convinced that the next games will have more improvements since this developer works almost alone on these titles and the quality he is able to put out is really worth your time and attention.
And if you’d excuse me now…. I have a game to finish. So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!