Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Game Review | Again

So, since I've been stingy with my money in anticipation of Epic Mickey (Wii only; release: Q3 2010) and Sonic 4: Episode 1 (Playstation Network; WiiWare; XBOX Live; iPhone/iPod Touch), games haven't necessarily accounted for much of my spending. However, I wanted to try the DS game Again after watching a video about it. The game seemed like a good diversion for my commute. How I wished I had looked at those videos again and chosen not to purchase this game.

Again, like so many detective style games, has no replay value. For some reason, I assumed that with a name like "again," that might not be the truth. Alas, it is and even if it weren't, I'm certain I'll never play it again. While it starts out fairly well, the game quickly takes a turn for the absolutely annoying. The basic gist is that you are a detective in the FBI and the lone survivor of the "Providence" murders. Nineteen years later, another series of murders occur that are almost identical to the originals. You and your partner reopen the past cases and join forces with the local police department to discover the truth of the recent and past murders. Hit the jump for the full breakdown.

The first problem that arose while playing Again is its interface. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Trace Memory, other games produced by developer Cing, Inc, had the same issues. You have to do too much to get results. The controls didn't always respond to the stylus and in many ways, the idea of exploration became really limited to what you are supposed to do. You have a partner that works with you and she is very much like a cheat. If you are ever uncertain about what you are doing, you can return to your offices and she'll basically tell you what to do from there. In addition, you find that you are forced to do the same things again and again—is this becoming a theme?

The second issue with the game is that the interaction with other characters is mostly a bunch of reading. You rarely have the opportunity to "say" anything with the pre-chosen phrases provided and unlike Hotel Dusk, the results don't change people's opinion of you. Like most of the game play, you have to do a lot of work to talk to people and the controls do not always respond properly. There is a nice "history" feature that lists the entire conversation you've had with a person, but by the time you are finished speaking with people, you really don't want to read anything else.

The biggest issue with the game is the idea of being able to look into the past to see how the murder took place—which is the big selling point of the game itself! The extra screen provides you with clues to discover exactly how things occurred during the past murders. The videos that they show after you discover every clue get annoying—and you cannot skip them. Then, after you have all the clues together, you have to choose the appropriate order in which events occurred—and you are forced to watch the videos again. Finally, you watch the whole video one last time and are shown the victim's face and the killer's face. It's a waste of a lot of time and probably the only way that game play goes past 10 hours.

Not everything about Again is bad. The graphics are an improvement from Hotel Dusk, which felt a little like an Ah-ha video. The music is very annoying however, so you might find yourself muting your volume often. The story is quite engaging despite the work you must go through to get more of it. Most of the time, you can keep up with the flow of mystery very well. The cliffhanger at the end alludes to a sequel, but I'm not sure that I can take another game with this story. However, if they make improvements to the interface and allow for more exploration and personality, it could be a good game. Would I recommend buying Again? Not really. If you can find it used for $5, maybe; otherwise, spend your money on something else.

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