So I’m just going to come completely clean like Ajax and admit openly that I had a difficult time reviewing Resonance. It’s not the game, it’s me. It might be the game, actually. Now that I think about it, it was almost entirely the game, and it’s not that Resonance is a bad game, either. In fact, I imagine that someone, somewhere is sitting there thinking, “Man, my friend Eric is going to enjoy this game as much as I do!” That someone is wrong and let me tell you why.
Games that make me point and click to interact with my environment are proof that the universe went horribly, horribly wrong somewhere in its ample history. Now, I bet you’re thinking about how ridiculous this idea is, considering every PC game in the known universe has a point and click interface. Touche, logic, and while I would agree with you, I need only refine my argument: by point and click interface, I mean games that force you, the player, to do mundane, simple things. Take the first scene of Resonance, where the main character wakes up to the sound of a cell phone ringing. You have to find the cell phone. You click on random objects in the room, where the game proceeds to give you a reason why you’re wrong and you should probably quit freeloading off of your parents. Ok, the bit about parents and freeloading is a joke, but this whole process does feel vaguely like the game is trying to punish the player for something he or she didn’t do. As I continued to click random things and feel the sting of rejection each time, I started to wonder who considers this kind of masochistic puzzle solving fun. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good old game of hide and seek as well as the next guy, but like most people, I get irked when I can’t find my cell phone early in the morning. This feeling of irascible tension only doubled in a virtual environment. I click on the hamper, thinking that it’s probably in a pocket. I pull out a pair of jeans and lay them on the hamper. My countenance becomes a quizzical contortion as I consider why my character doesn’t just go ahead and grab the cell phone that I assume must be in the pocket of the chosen clothing. I click on the jeans, he grabs the cell phone, and I slap my face with the force of Ares in disgust at the seeming banality of this entire scene.
Now, hold on, some may think that I’m being picky. They’re probably right, too, but I really don’t understand this whole idea behind this style of gaming. It must appeal to someone, though, because this format has been around for a very long time. To be honest, the more I played of Resonance’s story the more I found it delightful. The story really is interesting. The game starts with a solid hook: a news reel depicting a cataclysm. Then it ports you into the past, and you’re playing through the events leading up to said cataclysm. It’s a typical, but effective hook. My annoyance continued, though. So the game sticks you in a highly dangerous situation, one where you’re a little kid running from a monster. So as this kid I’m stuck in her room, trying desperately to find another way out as the monster beats down the door. Do you know how I dealt with the point-click interface in this high-stress situation? I clicked on every object a thousand times and screamed at my screen in frustration and fruitless rage. As it turns out, this is, in fact, not an acceptable way to game outside of the multiplayer of the FPS genre. Alas, it was exactly how I got through Resonance, and it’s why I have such a bitter taste in my mouth.
I should point something out that someone who’s read my articles is probably noting: Cart Life had you pointing and clicking to interact with your environment, and even went so far as to have you do hackneyed activities that are just as boring as trying to find your cell phone. Yet Cart Life’s style of game was a fraction of its holistic meaning. It wasn’t a puzzle solving game; it was an artsy fartsy one that was telling you something. Resonance is telling a story, not giving a message, and storytelling needs to be as fun in its interactivity as it is catchy in its hook.
It really isn’t the style of game that is Resonance’s problem, though, it’s the execution of that style that I find fault with. Point-and-click style games can be very well done, and to certain gamers, can be fun world explorers and engrossing puzzle solving experiences. Yet Resonance puts the player in timed problem scenarios that are setting you up to either fail in the attempt or die from the insipidity of the experience. For example, one time I was trying to hack into a computer. I loaded to the log in screen and cleared the username. Now, maybe I’m a complete idiot for doing that, but I didn’t think hacking tool on a flash drive would need a particular person’s username. As it turns out, it did, and I didn’t save my game beforehand. So here I am in the middle of a scene after angrily clicking everything in sight only to find myself completely incapable of hacking the computer and moving the story forward. Honestly, puzzle solvers aren’t my thing, but if you’re going to make a puzzle unsolvable by such trite reasons, I don’t really feel like it’s my fault.
The game’s individual scenes and storytelling seemed absolutely brilliant, but the game’s execution is a bit dull. It’s not terrible, but between looking for a cell phone in a clothes bin and frantically clicking everything on the screen in an effort to run from a big beastie breaking down my bedroom door, I didn’t know whether to be excited or asleep. In reality, though, neither parts of the aforementioned example really got me excited, but left me feeling on the edge of a stroke. Resonance has great heart but it needs more. Now, pardon me, I’m off to find my cell phone.